When people ask me what Paganism is, I always start with a baseline. Because (let’s face it) Paganism is hard to define in a soundbite. Any spiritual path is, due to inherent complexities of belief, subjective individual perspectives… stuff most people aren’t really interested in.

Interestingly, I was also asked years ago to help explain Christianity to a lovely couple of Muslim co-workers at a temp job. My friendly manager jumped in, and we ended up using a whiteboard to illustrate. The Muslims then did likewise – and it was both fun and pretty enlightening, as you try to explain something that’s by its nature pretty amorphous.

But anyway. Paganism, I tell people, is seeing the sacred in Nature. Baseline, as best I can determine. Do any Pagans not believe this? I haven’t met them yet, if so. And I’m not sure why they would call themselves Pagans, because this kind of is the foundation of the definition.

Then come the differences. What is ‘sacred’, what is ‘natural’, how do we view this, how do we practise… it’s tricky, but it’s also interesting, to me, because this is where we can explore. Why we do what we do, but also why others do it in their own particular manner. Not saying anyone’s wrong, just poking a bit to challenge and understand.

Lately, I’ve been considering the meanings behind words we use to describe spiritual connection (specifically, how they’re often misused – or is that just the word-meaning evolving? A topic for another day). And I realized how so many of our ‘modern’ ideas are almost binary: right/wrong, us/them,¬† black/white… Science/Nature.

Not to go into too much detail, as it’s all out there if you want to look it up, but the idea of Science VERSUS Nature seems to have come about during the Industrial Revolution. In order to understand the world better, thinkers, scientists and engineers decided to use a mechanical model. This meant that complex forms could be understood by looking at their component parts, with a view to potentially tinkering with those to help or enhance, to find answers to Why Things Are the way they are.

So came the idea of physical versus meta-physical. What is empirically real – provable by Science – as opposed to what is not.

But the answers failed to be found, as each discovery simply posed more questions. Shades of me and my whiteboard and pen, trying to define a religion within finite space and with a language that didn’t quite help.

And again… I don’t think this is a bad thing. But I can see the frustrations when the ideas of the world don’t fit into neat little boxes. We’re reminded we can’t know everything… but we can still connect with it. We have to, in fact, or we die.

We see the sacred in Nature. And not just see. We use every one of our senses – and more besides. We seek that connection… and when we get a taste/touch/glimpse of it, we realize how indefinable, immense and complex it is.

But that is ok. That’s one of the first steps on this journey.

Here’s a task for you today. Pagan or not, it doesn’t matter – if you’ve got this far, I’ll assume you’re still interested.

Step outside. Take a few minutes. Do it. No excuses. If you absolutely can’t (and I’m speaking to my lovely readers who may not be physically able here, not just those who are confined to office cubicles), then get to an open window. Trust me.

Feel the Outside, with every one of those senses. The air on your face, perhaps rain or breeze. Birds singing, people talking, dogs barking, vehicles, phones, music. The ground beneath your feet.

How does it all feel? Close your eyes if it’s safe to do so, and reach out a little. If folk give you funny looks, don’t panic – you won’t see them.

Now. Notice your thoughts. How’s your brain dealing with all of this? Feeling stupid? Looking at the time, at the commitments you have to get back to, worrying about things to do… just catch that internal monologue in the act. Tell it you’re Outside. Remind it that you’re Pagan. You’re Doing a Thing. Shut up. All of that noise can wait.

Then notice the world again. Go deeper. You’ve put aside the mundane concerns, you’re having a spiritual moment within the everyday. This is your own small ritual. Reach down, reach out… connect.

Because that binary reality isn’t an accurate depiction of life, not really. It’s a way that people chose to help them understand, and that’s fine – as a model.Not the Ultimate Truth.

You touch the natural world while hearing and feeling the human-made – concrete underfoot, tiny computer in your pocket, machined clothes, make-up, processed food.

As you stand outside, your brain may want to go back in. This isn’t right, people will think you’re weird, there’s stuff to be getting on with! Or perhaps… as they look, seeing someone who has simply stopped, pausing to breathe… they might be envious? How many have the courage to ask you what you’re up to? How many more would want to join you? Would they be able to let themselves? Just smile.

The difference between Outside and Inside is a closed portal – a door or a window. You have the power to move through it (doesn’t that sound magical, just by thinking in those terms?). Civilization creeps outside, while the natural world effortlessly sits inside: earth, air, water, fire…

If you are Pagan, seeing the sacred all around, you can step outside to better connect. But you then take that with you as you move forward with your day. As your senses have opened, your awareness has been reminded of what is there all the time, just waiting to be seen, acknowledged, appreciated. It’s all combined, part of life. City or country, wild or tame, sacred or profane… we engage through taking the time to witness it, to be part of it. Any time, any place. We should not be afraid to do this. It’s not about ‘finding time’.

And it’s up to us what we do with that, ultimately. I’ve tried to turn a huge and almost indefinable feeling into words here, to convey my thoughts and understanding. We can let it inspire us, channelling through our own personal creativity in whatever way suits us best – prose, poetry, art, music, computer code, pottery or Lego… we use the technology (as I use this laptop right now) to pin down feelings, just for a moment. There’s that model again, something that allows our human brains to come to terms with cosmic reality.

We can’t see air, but it’s there and we use it. We may not understand electricity, but it we know how to harness it. I’ve always known in my heart that flying in a huge, heavy metal box above the clouds is a very particular form of magic that I’ll never comprehend, but I’ve done it.

And so I know that feeling the particular energy of the night-time is not strange. Joy at a sunrise, the primal pleasure of a fire in my hearth… or the warmth of a nourishing drink in my hands, sharing laughter with friends or witnessing someone else’s tale on screen or page. Our ancestors have done every one of these, using whatever technology they had. We reconnect with the world and we reconnect with our selves, our families, friends, stories… the wild and the tamed, intertwined.

As Pagans, we notice. And we are grateful and glad. Marking Nature as sacred in our lives, as they are lived.

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Combined Healing

Good morning, lovely readers. It’s been the longest ever pause between posts… due to 2016. I’m sure few of you are surprised. It’s been a tough year for most of us.

I’m not going into details of my trials here (if you want information on that, it’s over on my Patreon page, as it’s somewhat more private). But what I’m wanting to do moving forward is to reboot this blog, talking about Druidry yes, but on a more regular basis.

So every Monday, I’m aiming to have a post land in your Inbox or preferred social media, just to brighten the day a little and inspire thoughts for the week. How does that sound? Keeps me thinking too…

On this particular Monday, I’m considering – as always – the connection between what is called ‘spiritual’ and what is called ‘everyday life’. And how the two really are connected, whether we like it or not.

I’ve been in a lot of physical and mental pain recently, which regular society suggests I handle via medication. My Doctor is great, as is my local pharmacy (hurrah for small village shops!), but ultimately it’s about pills to cure your ills.

This is fine, and I don’t want to disparage anything that works. However… I am questioning how much that is true.

Painkillers certainly work, and help hugely when I’m suffering from, say, a migraine last night. But they didn’t quite do the trick.

I was desperate. So I tried everything my frazzled brain could think of. The brain-pain was ultimately beaten back using a combination of forces: Ibuprofen for pain, tea and water for hydration and consolation… and ‘alternative’ remedies. Interestingly, it’s only when I started to apply these that change began to be tangibly felt.

I have a fabulous temple balm from Luna Levitas, ‘Witch Potion Headache Relief’. That’s her style, but in real terms it’s aromatherapy: peppermint, eucalyptus and bergamot, amongst other things. Entirely vegan and a pleasure to inhale and apply.

Also I love the term ‘temple balm’. Yes, it’s the temples on your head, so you’re essentially stroking your brain back to health. But it also makes me think of religious temples, peaceful and quiet, the scent of the balm mixing with the spirit of a magical place… definitely therapeutic.

Then I remembered a sari scarf acquired from Wrapunzel (I’ve been exploring ritual head-wrapping recently, but more on that in another post). So a deep purple wrap was gently tied around my aching noggin, and I rested myself back and closed my eyes…

In a short while, the pain began to ease. Not just the physical pain, but the mental tension beneath it. I began to breathe more freely again, feeling the flow of everything combining in my intention to heal myself.

This is a huge part of what I’ve been going through in recent months. NHS medication (which has never really worked) has given way to proper talking therapy. Self-care has become necessary – whatever works, from rest to exercise, engrossing stories (movies and books) to meditation or journeying.

By combining the spiritual with the ‘mundane’ (which really isn’t!), my mind, body and spirit are coming together to do what needs to be done.

Opening my laptop this morning to write has also been a huge challenge. The pain has made creativity so difficult, which in turn makes my mood plummet – writing is what I do, and not having done that has also been painful! So here I am. Again, setting intention, for both myself and sharing with those who are interested.

My work is about inspiration and connection. I’m reforging those skills as life turns into a new phase – I really do feel that’s what 2016 is pushing us to do. We step up, learn and move forward. But through growing knowledge of who we are, what we’re doing, and seeing that we do it for ourselves in order to step ‘outside’ and honestly connect with others.

I’m still here. That’s a blessing. As is the healing. I’ll be continuing to explore, and look forward to seeing what I find as the journey moves forward.

Much love, my friends. Happy Monday x

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Hello, lovely readers! It’s been a long time… but I’m still here. Just a small update today, as my thoughts want to be set down in words, to get them out of my head!

2016 has been difficult so far, for many of us. I’ve been working as and when I can, but spent a good deal of time signed off, with depression and possibly exhaustion/chronic fatigure. I have good doctors, however, so am doing what I can. I have amazing friends, which is a true blessing upon the healing journey!

While it’s been a frustrating time, I’ve not been idle. Much research has been undertaken, and my next book is now under way. Creativity has happened, and my public talks are evolving to new places – as well as being broadcast by video for the first time! Look me up on YouTube if you’re interested, as I have a channel there for easy access.

But what’s been happening within… I started the year exploring the idea of discernment, something our Christian friends undertake when deciding whether to follow the path of Priesthood. The word rang in my head, and I followed it up, curiosity being no bad thing in this case.

Discernment is listening for that voice from the ‘powers that be’, learning to hear something that you’re meant to hear. Lately, that’s been books that leap out at me (well, that’s kind of always happened to this bookworm!), but also music, stories, phrases in conversation… any number of things.

This will no doubt feature in my future writings, but as I listen, I feel as if my mental map is becoming clear. I’m cutting through the mess of clutter and illness, to see the way forward – that’s been waiting to be found all along.

Dreams have become vivid, with a whole landscape becoming familiar for night-time exploration. Certain books demand to be read, places to be visited, skills to be attempted. I’ve learned to listen for that push, almost like a cosmic bell is being rung, a true note amidst the clamour of emotion that depression surrounds me with sometimes.

I carry notebook and pen, or a handy phone app to record my thoughts as and when they happen. If something seems out of reach, I ask on public social media, and someone will come up with the answer. I feel more connected than ever…

But on the other hand, I’m still fighting the darkness. This week, I’m glad to have survived, let alone accomplished anything (another reason to get these words down, as a reminder and a celebration of achievement!). This is clearly part of my journey, a challenge to overcome, but… the days can be brutal. But if I can find something to focus on amidst the madness, that thing has my total attention – and I learn from it.

Recently, I’ve been given tremendous hope. A friendly medical professional reminding me to stay positive, a book that uses Pandora’s box as a metaphor for a lone speck of brightness within the awful. A wise shaman friend just nodding, and telling me very matter-of-factly that I can do it, and need to get on with my work. A wild and wonderful Heathen gentleman confirming that this work sets us somewhat apart from ‘society’, but that’s necessary to be able to do it.

I’ve been walking between worlds, I think – dark and light, madness and sanity, polite society and what lies behind and beneath. I’m learning to discern what’s important, what I need to see and know, the path I must explore in order to report back in my writing.

When I’m stuck, friends have helped clear the way. When I’m lost, a solution appears. When I need sustenance, I’m supported.

I can never adequately express how grateful I am to be able to do this, and to those who keep me going through the ups and downs. I rejoice in the moments of peace, never taking them for granted; I battle through the storms, focusing and holding on to my internal rudder as best I can.

When I work, I give my all. This can lead to exhaustion, but that’s the price to be paid right now. Life is very different to how it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. But here I am.

I’m still here, and moving forward. And I’m so glad that you’re all here with me.

Much love, my friends x

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In Sickness and…

A long overdue update. Spring is upon us (as the rain beats down on my window here!), and I feel like leaving this Winter is almost akin to clambering from a very deep, dark hole…

For the past two months, I’ve been pretty much confined to home. I’ve been very ill, both mentally and physically, and while I have a fabulous doctor looking after me, it’s been ridiculously hard. Not least because I’m a bad patient. If I’m not able to do something with my days, I get frustrated, which leads down the path to… well, bad thoughts. Spiralling down is an apt metaphor, but not fun to live.

So anyway. Today is the first day I’ve been back in my little office for quite a while, and I’m doing my best to do that something. Catching up with emails and marking; the phone is already going with meetings to sort out treatments and work. But my head is still fuzzy, so I’m having to remind myself to take things gently.

One thing which has struck me over and over throughout this is how much we drive ourselves in the world today. This is an old song and I won’t sing it again now, but I’m sure you understand.We don’t have time to be ill, what about deadlines, people to see, things to do… argh!

A huge aspect of my healing has been the voices of friends, reassuring me that it was actually OK to be out of action.They were still there, I could do this, everyone had faith and things would soon be well again. Thank the gods for social media again – all I had to do some days was to reach out a hand and have it grasped firmly across the virtual ether.

It’s hard to defend against such a barrage of loving optimism – and I quickly learned not to try! Seeing the torrent of kindness reaching from around the world touched me deeply, and tears flowed more than once.

I’ve written in the past of community, and this is the best aspect of that, I think. Sure, there’ve been some who sent brickbats – I’m lazy, making excuses, can’t be bothered, etc etc – but those who really saw the battle I’ve been fighting have really stepped up in arms alongside. (I love that image.)

This is the community that I’m proud to be a part of. I’ve met almost all of them through my work as a Public Druid (TM, heheh), and when I remember back years ago to that similarly awful time of unemployment, the prospect of even advertising as a ‘Druid Priest’, how ridiculous that sounded… But I did it. I moved off the map, the 9-5, pension and sick pay, lunch hours and annual leave. Beyond the border of ‘normal’ life, here there be dragons! And it has brought me so much joy. Difficulties, sure, but life is a very different place now because I stuck to those choices, followed the signs and trusted. I wouldn’t be part of this community otherwise.

Being Pagan, of course, teaches you to look for the reasoning behind things, the lessons that we can learn through the downs as as well as the ups. And so my sick time has taught me a few things. A big one is that mental illness hurts easily as much as physical. But sometimes stepping into those waves of madness (especially when you seem to have no choice), standing up and raising hands to others, having faith and just riding things can take you to marvellous, unexpected and wonderful places.

I have to trust that this time has held its own lessons – I’m too close to tell just yet. At its worst, I feared letting others down by my inactivity; but those others stepped up gladly to help me. Love and trust, those tenets of humanity as well as Paganism, genuine compassion, empathy and understanding. Friendship and community, worth more than any gem.

I’m still here.

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Reviving the Writing Spirit

Happy New Year, lovely people. It’s been a long while, but I’m still here! A busy year, many ups and downs… But now planning for 2016. Including tasks that I really want to be doing, rather than being tied down with obligation. 

Translation: I’m saying ‘No’ a little more often. Boundaries are being set. New energy is being found in the darkness of winter.

Writing is resuming, therefore, with both this blog, various articles coming up in publications and on websites, but also my daily Inspiration blog-ette, ‘Drops of Awen‘. Small words each day, but which both encourage me to write and to see something worth writing about each day.

Oh, and more ‘official’ books as well…

Raising a glass and moving forward.

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Daily Druidry – audio

A little treat today, folks! Some of you might know that I’m using Patreon to help support my work, as people have often expressed a wish to help. In return, I’m providing exclusive writings, plus audio and (hopefully!) video.

So here’s one of the new audio blogs, made available to everyone for your enjoyment! Please do support me if you can; either way, I’m not going to stop anytime soon, and more writings are on their way…

With thanks to you all for your interest. Every creative person is held up by their community, and I’m no different. Much love.

Click here to find the audio file on Patreon, and get more details.

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24/7 Priest

I saw an interesting story this morning. A lovely depiction of women, armed raised to the sky, dresses and hair flowing, entitled ‘A Gathering of Priestesses’. It relates to online classes and talks being held soon.

Lovely, I thought. I wish I was as glamorous as them!

Then I stopped. I looked at the recent pictures of myself at work that folk have posted to my Facebook – as I officiate at weddings, namings and public ritual. Good grief… I am doing this! Aren’t I?

I often find myself pausing to consider the terminology we use to describe our ‘work’ – ie the tasks we do for others to support ourselves and our community. I call myself Priest, and have been both honoured and berated for it… despite the fact that I only took it on after enough people had referred to me as such, and I’d been working as one for long enough that I felt it to be an accurate title and descriptor. I don’t tend to use ‘Priestess’, not because I’m ‘denying my femininity’ (yes, really) but because I don’t see gender as part of the role, not really. I’ve often said that people can call me what they want, so long as it’s civil or polite!

But what does it really mean, to ‘Priest?’ Do we turn it on or off, like a 9-5 job? Is it reliant on certain clothing, place or attitude? Of course not. I’ve been reading a lot of work lately by priests of other faiths, and see the same thoughts again and again. A Priest is something you are, not something you do. It’s a role you take on, yes, but as a result of vocation, calling to service. Duty comes into it, but I find myself working almost anytime, anyplace. I have joked that my motto is the same as the 1970s British comedy show, ‘The Goodies’ – We Do Anything, Anytime, Anywhere!

Ultimately, I do what I’m called upon to do. Great. Priesting for others is identifiable. What about other times, then? In private, at home, out shopping, with family?

Nimue Brown wrote a thought-provoking piece that’s been in my head relating to this topic this week, on Gods. As with the title of Priest, being a Priest of [Insert Deity Here] can be used as a bludgeon almost, to give the title-wearer power, bolster their ego, increase their standing in the community… or it can mean what it truly means. 

If you take on the title – and subsequent responsibility – as a Priest of a Deity, then you are that all of the time. As a vicar might serve their community, a Priest of a God serves their Lord or Lady as needed, throughout their lives. Not just when it’s convenient. You don’t shut the door to the Powers that Be. So public Pagan Priests discover that they might be called upon all of the time, even when it might not be convenient to them.

And this includes all those in-between times as well. Which is what occurred to me today.

I made the decision to work from home today. I’ve dressed, sorted out the animal household residents, pinned my hair up and considered what needs doing. No makeup, no jewellery, no glamorous presentation! This idea popped into my head. It wanted out. I’m typing from my sofa, with a cup of tea at hand. That’s how writing works sometimes. So here I am.

Through the writing, I’m discovering thoughts, ideas, challenging myself. Am I a Priest when tapping away here? Or washing up, doing the laundry, walking the dogs? How about when I’m hidden under a blanket, crying my eyes out, having been overcome with emotion on those darkest days? 

Yes, I am. The truth seemed quite simple, as I pondered it. The stories tell us so, and from them – those myths that I return to for guidance – comes confirmation.

Demeter’s dark days are called ‘Winter’. Ereshkigal turned hers into determination. Odin suffered to find his truth. Athena (Wisdom) was born from Zeus’s headache!

Whether we see deity as literally existant or not, our ancestors went through the same life dilemmas as we do now, and retold the journeys in story. From peasant to King, they pondered, explored, screamed and wept. Others were there to help – public, accessible Priests – but part of the journey is questing inside, for that ‘Aha’ moment (yes, which Druids call Awen) of realization. Discernment, through piles of crap or huge social noise, to find your truth. 

Priests do this for others, but also for themselves. We all do, to some degree. While I suspect that the reason that Priests gained so much power is that others wanted to rely on someone else to sort their problems out for them, a good Priest will inspire, guide and encourage, not provide a quick fix (I never quite understood how absolution worked, but repenting a mistake instead of regretting it seemed clear). As spirituality is a life-choice, not just for convenient ‘holy’ days, so we live it. All of the time, good and bad, light and dark. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We take responsibility. We stand as Priests, guided by those we serve as much as we guide them. My Gods are patient, but give kicks when needed – as do I! Sometimes it is just a matter of allowing space for the realization. 

Priesting myself is no bad thing. Boundaries to allow for that are as necessary as in public ritual. Stories guide along the way. Moments of realization allow for internal ‘facepalms’, of ‘How did I not see that before?!’ – because only now am I ready, in a place to properly see.

I’ve been given many labels over the years, but ultimately, I regularly recommit to those that fit best – and so I move forward. This idea or identity is not finalised in this little blog post; it will evolve as I do, as I discover more on my journey. And so my own story unfolds.
Occasionally, I even dress to match.

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