Loreena McKennitt – A Trio Performance

LM meme Ancient Muse (1)Loreena McKennitt, Caroline Lavelle and Brian Hughes were amazing, as always last Monday night! A wonderful performance, utterly magical. I laughed, I cried (I sobbed!), I was utterly enthralled (some songs I think I forgot to breathe). It was just brilliant, and lovely to see these talented folk on stage once again. It’s been five years since Loreena and her travelling troubadours have been to the UK, and I last saw her at the Barbican, promoting her album The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

The London Palladium is one of those old theatres that just oozes culture. It was the perfect setting for the ambient nature of this trio, intimate and yet wish a dash of indulgence. Sound quality, however, is not this theatre’s forte, and all sound had to be put through the speakers, which lost depth. The right-hand speaker couldn’t handle the piano’s low notes either and there was some crackling. There were some other hiccups in the show, and those little pixie mischiefs always happen in threes: a harp string breaking in the middle of Annachie Gordon (through which Loreena simply continued playing in true professionalism, playing around the broken string without missing a beat), a spotlight that kept going out, and forgetting the words to Greensleeves and the audience helping out! Their set list got changed radically after the broken harp string, and yet the concert still flowed beautifully. While changing the broken string, Loreena told extremely funny jokes, those long, funny, storytelling ones with a great punchline at the end. It was lovely, to see her humorous side that evening as well!

The emigration section was very powerful. With diary extracts from those at Grosse Isle in Quebec, tending to the Irish refugees, to Loreena’s own musings on her journey to discover the Celts, it really struck a chord (pardon the pun) within the hearts of all who attended. It was a history lesson, a musical journey and a spiritual experience.

Caroline Lavelle excelled that evening, on cello, recorder and squeezebox, as well as her soft, breathy background vocals. On the final song, her voice blended with Loreena’s so beautifully, I was utterly uplifted, and it was the best version of Full Circle that I have ever heard.

I was exhausted, emotionally, spiritually and physically after it, and am still kind of floating on the afterglow. Wonderful, awen in full flow. http://loreenamckennitt.com/ #loreenamckennitt

Yearning for the Wind

Yearning for the windWow. Get this book. Read this book. Love this book.

Tom Cowan’s stories and insights into Celtic spirituality are brilliant.  There will be a few future blog posts based around concepts from this book, concepts that coincide with things that currently are occupying my brain space, such as integration, immersion, the Oran Mor and more.  This is a book that will not only blow your mind, but also leave you giggling, rooting for the author on his adventures, and developing a deeper insight into your own soul.

A beautiful book to read after The Salmon in the Spring!  You can buy Yearning for the Wind HERE.

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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Book Review: Following the Deer Trods – Shaman Pathways

FTDTFollowing the Deer Trods – Elen Sentier

This Shaman Pathways book from Moon Books provides an introduction to the subject of the Awenydd, the Brythonic shaman working with the goddess Elen of the Ways. The author herself is an Awenydd, it having been in her family for many generations.

Sentier’s words are clear and very informal – it’s as if you’re having a chat in your kitchen with a cup of tea. She won’t dumb it down for you, neither will she make it impossible for you to understand – she uses the vernacular throughout. As a Shaman Pathways book, it has to provide an introduction to the topic in about 100 pages or less, which is quite difficult in any subject. In this book, Sentier does it quite clearly and concisely.

I saw many parallels between the function of the Awenydd and that of the Druid. As well, I could see a similar East meets West approach to some of the subjects, especially those considering the ego which I could relate to on many levels. I especially liked the foot dowsing, or walking the earth in the footsteps of the deer, listening to the many stories around us rather than focusing and hearing only our own. Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, once described this sort of walking as “kissing the ground with your feet”, making each step one made in peace. Sentier points out “when any of us step, walk, run, touch the Earth with our feet, we give our and pick up energy with each step. This happens whether we are conscious of it or not; walking, following the deer trods is partly about becoming conscious of this and about how we do it.”

I also found kindred alliance with the concept of the Awenydd being one that is in service to the community, rather than focusing on the concept of personal development. For me, this is what Druidry is all about. We can begin with the self, but it must not end there. As Sentier points out, “In the British tradition our [awenyddion, the plural of an awenydd] primary goal is to help the Earth and in order to do this we learn to ask her what she needs rather than thinking we know best”. Sentier also brings forward the concept that the healer or awenydd is not one that cures, but rather the one that uses a holistic approach, literally makes things whole. This may not include a cure, but it takes into consideration all aspects of healing.

My only criticism of this book is that the author tends to write in an anti-Christian tone every now and then, which I find off-putting. Having Christian family as well as Christian, Jewish and Muslim friends, and also working with Christian Druids I sometimes find remarks like “cruelty seems to be an integral part of all three of the Religions of the Book (the Bible) Christianity, Judaism and Muslimism” a little hard to bear. Indeed, the second half of the Bible deals with the teachings of Christ, which are mainly about love, not cruelty. Cruelty is not specific to a religious creed. The author’s rather low view of Christianity, in my opinion, is not conducive to getting the message across in a positive and peaceful way, all things considered.

This is really a book that is jam-packed with really useful information, exercises and different ideas that aren’t really found elsewhere. If the delivery hadn’t included the author’s views on Christianity, I would be happy to recommend it to anyone. However, considering some of the words said throughout the text, I could not recommend it to anyone who follows any of the three Abrahamic faiths alongside their own Paganism.

Review of Dancing With Nemetona

Dancing With NemetonaA lovely review of my book, Dancing With Nemetona, by Melusine Draco, author of Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods and Forests and other titles:

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

Recommended Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Love Letter to the Earth

TNH LLtoE

The wisdom of compassion allows us to see that we are part of a great cycle, that there is no separation. The earth is us, and we are the earth.

In this book, Love Letter to the Earth, Vietnemese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, talks about the stress we humans are putting upon the planet, and what we can do to live more harmoniously with the rest of the natural world.

I read this with the eyes of a human, the mind of a Zen Buddhist and the heart of a Druid.  In my opinion, this book needs to be on every Pagan’s bookshelf, let alone read by everyone regardless of faith, spiritual path, economic circumstance, political party, etc.

It is animism, and how to live it.

Review: Journey to the Dark Goddess

journeyThis great, thought-provoking book takes the reader down, using the myths of Innana, Persephone and Psyche as guides into the realms of unknowing.  Whether you have come out the other side of grief, trauma or simply what life throws at you, or whether you are currently in the throes of a dark night of the soul, heck, even if you haven’t even come close to that, this is a rich text about delving into the dark aspects of your soul, and of nature, to understand being in every sense of the word.

http://www.moon-books.net/books/journey-to-the-dark-goddess