Integrity & Emotional Responsibility

It’s very important, especially when working with others, to develop a strong sense of emotional responsibility. By this, I mean that when people disagree with us, or when life throws us a curve ball, we are able to deal with it from a place of centredness and intention, instead of a purely reactive response derived from past hurt and trauma.

People will disagree with us all the time. This is especially true if you put yourself out there, in the public sphere. What we have to learn to do, as Pagans, is to convey our message responsibly, without seeking to increase the suffering that already exists in the world. What do I mean by that? Well, not everything is sweetness and light, and we do have to come to an understanding of our own shadows, of what places exist in our psyche and our souls that carry deep emotional wounds from previous suffering, but not carry that forward and perpetuate suffering, both in ourselves and in others.

We have to be aware of the manipulations that our culture invests in and regurgitates regularly as “fact”, such as “we live in a dog eat dog world” or the idea that there is some ladder we’re all climbing, and we have to beat others to the top. As Pagans, we look to nature for guidance, and when we do we discover an incredibly beautiful web of shared existence, where things are working together. Looking at a healthy ecosystem, we discover and can be inspired by the way that things work, collectively, rather than competitively. I truly believe that we have placed far too human-centric and capitalistic a view on ecology, with such absurd concepts as “the food chain”. When we work together, we are stronger. It’s as simple as that.

Not everyone will want to be part of that worldview, however, so we have to learn how to deal with this in our lives. Some people are so wounded in our society, and in our Pagan community, that it can be completely random or by design that you suffer from such terrible acts as bullying, trolling, undermining, character assassination and more. Many people now think that blowing out someone else’s flame makes theirs burn brighter, when in fact it does not. Social media makes this a great place to do so anonymously. If we are strong and emotionally responsible, we can respond to such horrid behaviour from a place of integrity. We can stand up for ourselves, without trying to destroy the person or persons involved. We may or may not have a resolution in every situation that is satisfactory, but at least we know that we have acted from a place of sovereignty in our own self.

When we are working as priests or priestesses, it is imperative that we own what is ours, and understand what is not. When people project their wounds on to us, we can realise that this is not ours, and that it is their own wounding that is causing this behaviour. We may not be able to change this behaviour, but we also don’t have to take it to heart and let it ruin us emotionally. If we are truly strong, we can send them compassion in various forms, if possible, or we can simply be compassionate with ourselves if the former is too difficult, and know that this is something that we do not own. Likewise, when we react to people’s behaviour, we have to realise that this may be coming from an emotion or experience that is ours, and ours alone, and that we need to deal with this in order to work with integrity.

We also need to keep the ego in check. We have to be careful with notions of power. I’ve always said that being a Druid is a verb; it’s what you do that counts. If you are working as a Druid priest, or a teacher, you must remember to work with power in a way that is filled with honour and integrity. The renowned author and Pagan activist Starhawk coined three different types of power in her work, which are Power Over, Power With and Power from Within. We have to let go of notions of Power Over, and instead work with the other two, for empowering others is really what working in a Pagan priesthood is all about.

We need to inspire others, first and foremost. May we be the awen.

 

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Reblog – Druid Priest: Behind the robes

Here’s a taster from my latest blog at SageWoman – to read the full article click HERE.

At this time of year, the pull of the ancestors is very strong, from the blood ancestors, the ancestors of the land and also ancestors of tradition. The beckoning call of our future ancestors also pulls me in another direction, and I feel the threads that weave it all together being pulled tightly, even as the leaves turn and fall from the trees, the smell of woodsmoke on the wind.  Sometimes the songs of the ancestors are so strong, that when walking through the land it can feel like walking through treacle. When sitting in meditation, the songs flow through my body, leaving my sense of self behind as I am swept up in the current of my bloodline, the songs of those who lived on this land before, and the wisdom whispered through the teachers.  It can be difficult, dealing with the parish council and social workers, or even holding a conversation with someone who works at the village shop.  Still, with the heady songs flowing through my veins and through the land I manage to get the day to day jobs done: the post mailed, the articles written, the class notes finished, the toilet scrubbed.

It’s now mid-afternoon, and as I stand by the empty grave I see people starting to arrive. They wait by the edge of the graves, and then the hearse arrives, the long black car pulling along the dirt drive through the trees of the natural burial ground. I feel the waves of emotion through the people as they see that vehicle of death arriving, and I feel a wave of memory flooding through me as well, of past deaths and loved ones arriving in the same fashion.  I take a deep breath of the autumn air and send love and compassion to my heart, and then extend that outwards to those who are waiting for the coffin to emerge, as I hold them, creating a sacred space for them to grieve, to feel this moment, to come to terms with their own mortality and the mortality of those that they love…

Cont’d at Witches and Pagans HERE.

Busy times ahead!

The Awen Alone Joanna van der Hoeven

My latest book, The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid has broken through another sales barrier last month – I am really pleased and very grateful for the warm reception that this book has received! I am currently working on a new book at the moment, diving in and getting stuck into a much more in-depth piece of work entitled Druid: Priest of Nature.   I hope to have finished writing this one by this time next year – wish me luck!

Working with the Gods of Time

barleyDruidry is hard work. If you want to establish a deep and meaningful relationship with the land, the gods and the ancestors you have to work at it, each and every day, really walking the talk and living your religious or spiritual path. Like most things in life, you get out what you put in.

At this time of year, things can seem crazy busy, with all the plans that we dreamt up over the winter months and put into action in the spring finally coming to fruition. Working as a Druid priest, not only do I have my own personal plans to attend to, but also those of the community. July and August are heavy months in my diary, filled with handfastings and weddings mostly. In the later summer months we are inspired to a deep commitment, not only in our work but in our love lives as well. If we want our harvest to be successful, we have to work at it.

The warm months encourage us outside, even though we may have a pile of work waiting on our desk. It’s important to experience these months physically, as well as on a spiritual level, especially here in the UK where sometimes the summer can seem so short. It makes greater demands on our time, and I find that I do not get nearly as much writing done from June to October as I would like, with other duties and the hot sunshine or warm rain calling me outdoors. It’s equally important to be outside in all kinds of weather, but perhaps it is because I was born in August that this month really appeals to me, with more thunderstorms, hot sunshine, refreshing rains and muggy weather. Though autumn is my favourite season, it can often be too short, whereas summer (hopefully) lingers on in the heat of the stones and the land, the smell of the rain, the flowers and the scent of mown grass.

So even though my work goes a bit nuts at this time of year, I take time out each day to remind myself of that commitment that I made with the land. To work with her, to honour her, to be with her, to learn from her. I hear the songs of the ancestors flowing through the land. My lady Brighid sings deep within my soul, every day.

Even though I had only a small window of opportunity yesterday to get out there, still I went to the field opposite my house to be with the barley before the harvest, listening to the brilliant rustle of the drying stalks under the sun, hearing the songs of the land and the troubles with the bluebell woodland beyond. Saying my prayers and blessings over the crop and the land, connecting with the earth and her nourishment, giving of myself in return was a necessary part of the day. Like being in any long-term relationship, it requires constant presence and not taking anything for granted. This was really brought home to me when I studied with Bobcat many years ago in the beautiful setting of the Cotswolds, when we discussed with the other students the gods of time. Working with time is a great learning curve, coming to learn how to relate to the gods of time, working with deep integrity and honesty.

So you will please excuse me if there are fewer posts between now and the end of August – in the few moments of brief respite from other duties and obligations, I’m probably out in the fields or forest, heathland or seashore, spending time with the ancestors, honouring the gods of time and reminding myself to be present.

Blessings of the harvest!

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.

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

Interview with Emma Restall Orr, March 2014

Photo courtesy of emmarestallorr.org

Photo courtesy of emmarestallorr.org

Below is a fairly recent interview (March 2014) with Emma Restall Orr, author, founder and director of Honouring the Ancient Dead, and former Head of The Druid Network. Here, she is talks about Druidry, labels, the priesthood, anarchy, understanding the self and the importance of earth-based religions. Enjoy!

Listen HERE.