Reblog: Trees as Teachers

Here is my latest blog post for my channel Druid Heart at SageWoman on Witches and Pagans. Welcome to the greening of the land!

P1070665 (1024x666)The trees are almost in full leaf now, with only the ash and aspen yet to join in the greening. It’s been an odd Spring, with the oak trees in leaf before the hawthorn has come into flower here in Suffolk. Only now are the first blooms of the May tree coming out, and with it the signs that herald for me the coming season. The warm days have certainly been a blessing, and the light rain that falls today is equally welcome after long hot days of full sunshine and cool sea breezes.

It’s at this time of year that I am reminded of just how important trees are to me, not just in their life-giving properties but also in their spiritual presence. The deciduous trees with their lush foliage always bring a smile to my face, and after a long winter of sleep to see the beech tree at the bottom of my garden joining in the party that the younger birch trees have started fills my heart with joy. The grass is lush and green, and everything just feels so very much alive. I welcome the greening with all my heart and soul.

Trees are magnificent teachers. They are so much larger than we are, both spiritually and physically. They remind us of what it means to live a life in service to the whole, to live a life filled with integration and harmony, sustainable and at peace. Trees teach us of communion and integration, both at the deep root levels of our soul and reaching out towards the heavens of our soul’s awakening. They teach us of symmetry and asymmetry, of co-operation and anarchy. They are a legion of souls across this land, swaying in the wind, living their intention and benefiting all those around them by doing so. There is no sense of “I” with a tree; rather, it can instigate a better sense of “You” (or “yew”, pun intended).

When we develop a relationship with trees, we think about ourselves less, rather than think less of ourselves. We are reminded that we are a part of an ecosystem, that the ecology of our spirituality is all important to our everyday lives. This ecology is absolutely integral to who we are as a species, and part of a place and environment, as part of life on this planet. We cannot separate this ecology in any shape or form. It is in everything that we do.

We are not far removed from our cousins who still live in the trees. We’re all just monkeys with car keys, after all.

The Teenage Druid

Taken from my latest blog post at at Druid Heart on SageWoman’s channel at Witches and Pagans…

10361054_598064806967174_1548976491936707739_nWhen people think of Druids, the image that often comes to mind is not that of a young person, a teenager perhaps. And yet, how many young Druids are there out there, waiting to be recognised? How many teenagers feel the call to live in balance and harmony, with a deep love and respect for the natural world, and a great desire to live with honour and integrity based upon those very same things? Quite a few, I’m sure. I was one of them.

A lot of Druid organisations, groves and orders will not accept members under 18 years of age. This can leave the younger, aspiring Druid twisting in the wind, so to speak. Where should they turn to for information, for advice? Real life teachers are hard to come by. If they are available, many do not wish to teach the under 18s for various reasons. Younger people as well have all sorts of limitations. How can they find the right path for them with their limited means? Finances, access to resources, time – all of these can be very tight for the younger person who also has to deal with the pressures of school, clubs, family obligations and so on.

Most Druids first turn to books to learn more about Druidry. It is a great way to gain a good basic understanding of what Druids do, when they do it and how they go about it. However, they do not actually make the Druid. Books are getting more and more expensive as well, and may not be affordable to the younger person. So what can they do when they can’t afford all the lovely, shiny new books available on the market today?

My advice would be to go to the library. Research, if you have the time after your ordinary school work, to look up everything that you can about the Celts. This may sound more like a history lesson that actually learning Druidry, but the Druid worldview is based upon the Celtic worldview – they cannot be separated. Druidry grew out of Celtic culture and society, therefore to understand Celtic culture and society is to understand, to a certain extent, the world of the Druid.

Most libraries don’t have a great Pagan section. Let’s face it, even today a lot of libraries consider Paganism to still be a part of the “dark arts”, something of the occult. I remember in my local library in Canada, the only books on paganism that were available were two books, one called something like “The Occult” and the second all about Gardnerian Witchcraft. It gave me a tiny flavour of modern Paganism, but still it was far off the mark from what I practice today.

However, though the stock in the library can be scarce when it comes to Pagan, and specifically Druid books, it doesn’t hurt to try and ask them to order it in for you. Often, Druid books have very non-threatening titles which may pass under the radar of even the most vigilant anti-Pagan librarian.

Book learning is just one aspect of learning, however. Information is gained from books, wisdom is gained from doing stuff. Druidry is not a passive way of being. It asks us to be fully present in the moment, connected to nature and the world in order to better understand our place in it, and to live in balance and harmony. That is something that cannot just be thought about. So how does the young Druid go about this aspect of Druid learning?

The very first, and most important thing is just to go outside. Be in nature. Get to know nature, and let it get to know you. Watch the sun rise and set. Watch the moon rise and set. Notice the animals in your area. Record what they are doing – find out all that you can about their behaviour. Learn the names of plants and stones. Feel the rain upon your face. Sit under the light of the full moon. Walk in the forest silently, listening to nature around you. Look up to the sky and learn the names of the constellations. Some of these may be more difficult for the aspiring urban Druid, but you can still persevere.

Learn how to meditate. Again, the library will come in handy for this, and it’s free. There are loads of videos on Youtube on how to meditate – I love Zen meditation, otherwise known as mindfulness meditation. My favourite teacher is Thich Nhat Hanh

Likewise, there are videos on Youtube about Druidry. Even a Beginner’s Guide in several parts. Do a Youtube search on popular Druids, such as Emma Restall Orr or Phillip Carr-Gomm – they will turn up some great stuff. Also, Google articles by the people whose books you can’t afford or obtain – there is a LOT of info available for free on the internet. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids have a regular podcast, called Druidcast, which has music, interviews and features every month. The American ADF also have a great podcast. The Druid Network is where I got my start in all things Druid – access to all the articles is free. There are hours upon hours of information there – waiting to be used practically, to be turned into wisdom.

As some point you may want to take some online courses, again if schoolwork allows. A lot of Druid courses cost money, and rightfully so – there are a lot of materials and time that have gone into the preparation of these. However, most teenagers cannot afford the cost of these courses, or do not meet the over 18 requirement. So what to do?

Again, head over to the Druid Network. There are free online courses available there, with no age limit. I particularly recommend Emma Restall Orr’s A Perennial Course in Living Druidry. Robin Herne’s Polytheistic Druidry course is also available. You can even read Emma Restall Orr’s first book, Principles of Druidry, online.

Another piece of advice I would give to the young, aspiring Druid is this: do not become despondent when you find that many, many people base your wisdom upon your age. Especially on internet forums, but almost equally so in real life. So many older people seem to think that wisdom and intelligence is based up on the number of years you have spent upon this planet – this is, in my opinion, complete bollocks. I have known wise children and stupid adults aplenty in my lifetime. Please, please, please do not despair, do not give up. Continue to seek out your Druidry, continue to ask questions, to learn more. If anyone makes you feel stupid for asking, or dismissed you based upon your age, well, quite frankly, they’re not worth knowing.

Keep at it, and do not become discouraged at the lack of training for under 18s. If you love nature, if you feel deep in your blood and bones the rhythms of the earth, the call of the Goddess, the pull of the land, sea and sky within your soul then nothing can stop you starting on your path. Indeed, you have already started.