I felt the need to create some music, and so I used this traditional Modern Pagan chant alongside some footage taken over the weekend on the heath 🙂
Here in the final installment of my YouTube and podcast mini-series on the elements. I hope you enjoy it! To listen to all podcast episodes, please visit my Bandcamp Page.
She is with me – I can feel Her as soon as I step out the door. She calls to me, she pulls me further away from the houses of humanity, deeper into the wilds; the windswept heath, the dark forest, the bright birch glades. I smile and answer her call with a song in my heart, my footsteps getting lighter and lighter as I head out to meet Her. I walk taller, with more grace, my body flowing and moving without the restrictions that are usually placed upon it. I feel an almost eldritch tingling in my blood – the awen is awakened.
My sense of self fades away, sloughing off in evanescent shades flowing behind me to melt into nothingness. I blend in with my surroundings – wearing faded greens and browns but also my personal space, my nemeton, dissolving into the land around me. This dissolution, this immersion in the landscape brings me closer to Her.
Each step is a sacred prayer. Gentle, aware, heel rolling to toe, I feel the earth beneath my feet. This land is holy ground. The air is sweet, tinged with scents of Spring and I see it reflected in the budding narcissus, the already blooming crocus. The birds have changed their songs to those that speak of warmth and sunshine, soft rains and the greening.
My joy in Her flows out of me and back inwards in an endless cycle. That joy is a quiet joy – there is no need to shout, no need for a fuss. It is pure, it is simple. It is utter awareness of the present moment, and the present moment is all that there is.
I look into the shadows beneath a stand of low pines, and there they are – her children. A small herd, of about a dozen, lie beneath the darkened canopy where no footpaths lie. Here they can rest undisturbed. I greet them ever so softly with my mind – I do not enter into myself to do this – it is merely an honouring and acknowledgement of their beauty without breaking the immersion in the present moment.
I continue on, blessed by the gift of seeing her children. I know that I will see more. I know too that I am of Her, related to Her, to her children. She is within me and I am within her. The deer are within me and I am within them. I only have to open my awareness to this to see the brilliance of this blessed gift. So simple, so easy.
The sunlight is warm upon my skin, the breeze is cool, playing with my hair and scarves, making them dance in the wind. I come to a very special place, and there they are – a herd seventy strong. They see me and wait – I wait also, allowing them the first move. The leaders are then startled by something, and they run across the open grassland from forest cover to the cover of brush, all in a line, along a sacred trackway that they have made over hundreds of years. This is Her trackway, and I watch with soaring spirit as they follow the flow of spirit across the heath.
I go to the birch trees to offer my greetings and leave a gift – a brilliant white egg-shaped stone I found amongst the heather. I then make my way back across the heath, coming across the trackway that cuts the green sward in half. I can still feel their energy – their silent, swift energy running towards the pine trees and dried bracken. As I cross that line, I feel it moving through me, and I swirl it through my soul before letting it run free again along the deer path. I am filled with golden light.
I can feel Her eyes upon me, watching from the forest edge. Her antlered head is thrown back with laughter, Her green eyes dancing even as my soul dances. Silently she shares in my joy and I in Hers, and then she disappears.
I make my way back towards home – there are a couple of deer hidden among the brush near to one of the paths I wish to take. I do not want to startle them – I choose another path. Moving along the forest edge I look up, and see the large herd again, this time ghosting through the trees, running silently and swiftly between the beech trunks, flashes of light and darkness. I bend down where I stand and bring my hands to the rich mossy ground. Looking down, my pale skin shines silver-white in the light against the vibrant green of the soft carpet, as if moonlight, not sunlight shone upon them. I close my eyes and breathe deep into the earth, giving of myself to Her.
Making my way homewards, I am always loathe to leave Her sacred ground. She is always within my heart, and always within my spirit – a sense of wildness, of laughter and play, of wariness and strength. She is muted when indoors, but She is there, deep within my soul even as I greet my Lady of Sanctuary upon entering the home. She smiles and reaches out to her Sister, Nemetona, the Lady of the Sacred Grove.
She is Elen, the wild goddess. I honour Her with all that I am.
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After having had wonderful conversations with an old friend of mine, and currently reading “Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future” the concept of the spirits of place has gained an even greater standing in my Druidry.
I have always loved the hills and mountains, the forests and rivers where I grew up in the Laurentians. These ancient volcanic hills, softly rounded ,weathered and tree-covered sing to my soul. They are not only a part of the landscape in which I grew up in – they are a part of very own self as well.
The water that I drank flowed from the rivers than ran between the mountains, fast in the spring with snowmelt, crashing over rapids and making its way southward through towns and villages. This river fed the many lakes, along with mountain streams that flowed down the granite hills, bubbling and jumping merrily through moss-covered stones. This is the water that I drank – it was a part of me, the rivers and the lakes, the mountain streams.
The clouds that scudded the hilltops gave rain that added to those mountain springs and rivers. Those clouds were a part of me.
The sandy plateau in the midst of these mountains is where our house was built. It was the literal foundation for a very happy childhood. Upon this soil I grew up. I tasted it upon my skin after a day spent outside, I inhaled the scent after a summer rain, smelt it on the cat’s fur when she came inside after rolling in the sand. This soil is a part of me.
The sunlight beaming down upon my warm skin as we sat on the lakeside beach, slowly browning or freckling skin, drinking it in – that sunlight is a part of me.
The thunder and lightning storms that raged across the skies in the heat of August, restoring the balance and refreshing the body after the humidity of the day – those storms are a part of me.
The dairy cows in the lowlands fed by the river and other rivers gave us milk and cheese as we were growing up. Those cows, the grass they fed upon, are a part of me.
The mulch thick and deep in the forest floor in late autumn, with mushrooms poking through and the wonder of life all around – that is a part of me.
Though I may now live thousands of miles away, all these things are still a part of me. If we think about it even further, the minerals in our blood, the iron from stars in galaxies far away are a part of us – there is everything in us and we are in everything.
Go deep enough, feel all these things in your soul, have your mind blown time and again. It begins to make sense, offers some comfort in our sometimes senseless society.
Words can give us glimpse – it is in the experiencing and relationship where the magic happens.
In Druidry, we learn often hear the word, awen, being used, but what exactly is awen? Loosely translated from Welsh, it means flowing spirit, or flowing inspiration. Awake to our own energy, and stretching out towards the energy of nature around us, we begin to see just what awen is. It is an opening of one’s self, of one’s spirit or soul, in order to truly and very deeply see. When we are open, we can receive that divine gift, inspiration that flows, whether it is from deity, nature, or whatever it is that you choose to focus on.
For awen to exist, there must be relationship. We cannot be inspired unless we are open, and we cannot be open unless we have established a relationship, whether that is with the thunder, the blackbird or a god. It is cyclical in nature; we open and give of ourselves and in doing so we receive, and vice versa. Letting go, releasing into that flow of awen allows it to flow ever more freely, and we find ourselves inspired not only in fits and bursts of enlightenment or inspiration, but all the time, carrying that essence of connection and wonder with us at all times. There is, of course, a line to be drawn, for we can’t be off our heads in ecstatic relationship with everything all the time.
But just what is awen? It is an awareness, not just on a physical and mental level but on a soul deep level – an awareness of the entirety of existence, of life itself. It is seeing the threads that connect us all. It is the deep well of inspiration that we drink from, to nurture our souls and our world and to give back in joy, in reverence, in wild abandon and in solemn ceremony.
Many are familiar with the Welsh tale/myth of Cerridwen and her cauldron, the three drops of awen falling onto Gwion’s finger and bringing his wisdom in the form of poetic inspiration, shape-shifting and prophecy. Some liken this story to a Bardic initiation, or the three grades of Bard, Ovate and Druid. In any case, drinking from the cauldron of the Goddess is to drink deeply of awen.
Many Druid rituals begin or end with singing or chanting the awen. When doing so, the word is stretched to three syllables, sounding like ah-oo-wen. It is a lovely sound, that opens up the heart and soul. Sung/chanted together, or in rounds, it simply flows, as its namesake determines. Our hearts literally can open if we let them when chanting or singing the awen.
Yet I am sure that the awen is different for each and every Druid. The connection, and the resulting expression of that connection, the Druid’s own creativity, can be so vast and diverse. It is what is so delicious about it – we inhale the awen and exhale our own creativity in song, in dance, in books, in protest marches – the possibilities are endless, as is the awen itself.