Fairy Tales

I attended a lovely make-up and photography workshop run by Leanne of Mystic Belly Dance earlier this month, and when it came time to be photographed, my friend Michelle and I decided to try out a Fairy Tale theme with the photographer, Roger Dewsbery. Here are the results, which I’m very pleased with! I can see possible future book covers and more… 🙂

 

Book reviews: *A Legacy of Druids* and *Fairycraft*

A-Legacy-of-Druids-coverA Legacy of Druids by Ellen Evert Hopman is a capsule held in time, with interviews by Druids from all over the world that were taken twenty years ago. It is interesting to hear their stories, especially from those people I know now, and whose perceptions have changed with the passage of time.

It’s not a book on how to be a Druid, but rather a conversation with an entire room full of them. You get to “work the room” so to speak in this volume, finding so many different personalities, histories and visions for the future. The foreward by Philip Carr-Gomm was perhaps the most interesting for me, and which coincided with my perception of Druidry as it is today. That this should be so is obvious; as a nature-based tradition, Druidry is always evolving, and here was have the proof that this is so.

Dynamics, schisms, traits, perspectives of different Druid traditions, with a lot of American vs British is reflected in the interviewees’ words. That these perceptions and their individual predictions for the future have changed over the last twenty years is, I think, a very good thing. With the popularity of the internet, dialogue has opened across vast oceans, with views being shared, references, academia, experiential gnosis and more. The divide between the two has lessened greatly, to the benefit of all.

Of course, I did not agree or resonate with the words of every Druid (or Druid friendly person) interviewed. Like being at a party, there are some people you want to hang out with and others that you don’t. But all of it is informative, in its raw, unedited state. You get real flavour of who that person was at that time, and what Druidry meant to them at that particular point in time.

A very interesting, and original work. I would love to see a modern version of this done, with as many of the same people in the original work, as well as new voices!

fairycraftI thoroughly enjoyed Morgan Daimler’s Fairycraft. This book is the follow-up to her Pagan Portals Fairy Witchcraft, and goes into deeper depth for this particular practice.

This book is extremely well-researched, and contains as well as a plethora of information, the author’s own experiences in the tradition. This down to earth practicality is what sets this book apart from others on the subject. It is divided into many sections, each with their own sub-section detailing the matter fully and capably. Not only do you learn fairy lore and customs, but this book also provides you with rituals and rites, prayers and holiday suggestions suited to one who wishes to honour or develop a deepening relationship with the fey, the sidhe, the gods and the ancestors.

Daimler’s writing is sincere and succinct, not overly flowery and not trying to impress, but rather expressing honestly what she has learned through her many years of experience in the tradition. I especially enjoyed the final portion of the book, entitled “Living Witchcraft”, for it gave me a deeper insight into the tradition and its practicalities, and also the author herself. I’ve enjoyed all of Daimler’s works, and look forward to reading more.

Reblog: The Solitary Path

Here is a reblog from my channel, Druidheart at SageWoman on the Witches and Pagans website, exploring a little of what the solitary path means to me.

The Solitary Path

Posted by Joanna van der Hoeven on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 in SageWoman Blogs

aloneSome people find comfort and deep learning in solitude. Others find inspiration and wisdom in the interaction with others, where the edges of our souls meet. I find a good balance between the two in my life, needing solitary reflective contemplation and the shared words, laughter and brilliance of my friends to encourage and nourish creativity. I have a strong circle of female friends with whom I share ritual practice, dance, creative crafts and good food, alongside weekends away, sometimes as “girly” weekends, sometimes as spiritual pilgrimages.

I have found ritual with these ladies deeply inspiring, and the bond that it creates reminds me of the sanctity within all our relationships. However, I mostly practice my Druidry on a solitary level, literally walking the wild paths of the heath or deep into the heart of the forest alone. In those moments I feel a deep connection to the world around me, whereas in ritual with others I feel a deep connection to them.

I think a balance is definitely required, in working both alone and with others. But here I shall speak of working alone, and the benefits that can be obtained from following a spiritual path with your own wits, instinct and inspiration to guide you.

I think that more of us need to spend quality time alone. I realise that in our society many people already feel alienated and isolated, but I wonder how much of that stems from not really being able to properly be with your self. I worry about the next generation, who have phones and tablets and a constant barrage of virtual communication that they can resort to anytime they are left alone. I remember a time when my husband was away for a work conference, and feeling the need for human company I went down to the local pub to chat with others from the village at the bar. There was conversation between the customers and the publican, but as soon as she left to go to the kitchen conversation died, and people went straight to their phones rather than talk to each other. I sat there, wondering what on earth has gone wrong with our society in that we cannot talk to each other anymore, but I digress.

The need for other human companionship can be strong, and it’s not a need that we should ignore, being a social species. However, what I would posit is that we certainly do need to learn how to be alone, to listen to ourselves, to become attuned to our thoughts and behaviour in order to better understand ourselves. I strongly feel that when we understand ourselves, we understand others and can be in the world with more empathy and compassion. Often I have taken time out away from the world in order to better understand it – in this I feel a very strong connection with monastic traditions. By removal from the world and the thoughts of others I can better hear the gods, the ancestors and the spirits of place all around me. By spending time alone with my thoughts I learn the cycles that they go through, paying attention to them and really noting them. With a little Zen, when we actually pay attention to our thoughts they don’t control us as much as they might otherwise, offering us an opportunity to live with real intention instead of leading reactive lives.

Spending time in mediation alone, learning how the mind works we can then begin to hear the songs of others as naturally our thoughts quiet down. We have paid them attention, and now that our thoughts have received the attention they desired, they no longer crave more. We hear the birdsong, we feel the sunlight on our skin, the wind in our hair where otherwise we might have been distracted by thoughts, feelings, emotions and situations. The world opens up, and we are once again reminded that the world is more than just us – that we are a part of a beautiful living, breathing system where everything is inter-related. It is an exquisite gift.

Spend more time with yourself. If you can, spend half an hour, an hour or a couple of hours each day alone, perhaps going for a walk or meditating. If at all possible, go on a weekend solo retreat, or a weeklong solo retreat in a place that inspires you, where you can really connect with what is important and with your own beautiful self. Learn to love that self for what she is, for who she is and connect with her, giving her as much time as you would your dearest friends.

When we learn to love our own self, that love will then spill out into the wider world, nourishing and sustaining others.

For more on the solitary path, see my latest book The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid, available now through Moon Books.