Posts Tagged relationship

Ranting and Listening

After the personal and depth-plummeting previous post, it’s time for something a little lighter. I promised folk recently that I’d post up something I’d been wanting to rant about for a while, so… I’ll try and be balanced, here. Honest. 🙂

I often hear people say that if they won the Lottery, they’d love to organise a Pagan Communal Place. The general ideas seems to be something like a retreat/monastery, where those who wanted to could live and learn, while others just visited when they felt like it. In blissful unity, of course, all worshipping together without the problems of the Real World.

Think about that for a minute.

I think this really is one of those ideas that is far better in theory than in practice. Can you imagine what living at such a place would be like?

Consider. Those who clatter with crystals versus those who know where they came from (and which ones are beads). Omnivores versus vegetarians versus vegans. Witches, Wiccans, Druids, Heathens… while there’s the makings of a reality TV show, I really doubt such a thing could ever be done, for one very simple reason.

Pagans Are People Too.

Have you ever been in a Pagan chatroom, on a Pagan internet forum, a Pagan Facebook group? The arguments when hidden from each other behind a computer screen can be fairly epic, certainly heated and often irrational based on belief rather than fact. Again, idea is preferable to reality, and some folk like to think they live that way.

Have you ever been to a Pagan pub moot, a Camp or retreat? It’s never as smooth, peaceful and idyllic as you’d hope. Arguments fester behind smiles, passive-aggressive Heated Discussions go on in the queue for the bar, those who are aware of ‘communal space’ face off against those who treat the entire thing as an organised affair for their own personal benefit, and whinge accordingly afterwards, having not moved a finger to help…

I’m not saying these should stop, nor that they’re entirely as awful as I’ve said here. But sadly, it’s a truth at the moment that Paganism (of whichever path) tends to attract the needy, the broken and the socially unskilled. Or, as we know them, HUMAN BEINGS.

We all have our needs. We’ve all been broken. We all get confused by those around us holding different views. But for some, it’s easier to throw up barriers, stand your ground (no matter how unsteady) and argue, rather than… well, listen.

OK, some folks have views that I’d really have trouble accepting into my own worldview. The Fruitarian lady who screamed and ran from a ham on the dinner table. Those who require ‘special treatment’ when they are fully able-bodied and well-off enough to themselves be helping, but are The Chosen of the Goddess. Those with huge Magickal titles whose pedestals are so high that I hope they fall off. And, of course, those who attempt to ‘convert’ others to their way of thinking via guilt. I *know* about the poor ickle fwuffy bunnies, thanks. I’ve skinned them, and watched them get taken down by a hunting hawk.

To be honest, it’s as Eddie Izzard said. None of us suffer fools gladly, much as we might like to think so. None of us have infinite patience. But we can do our best to truly listen first.

I have truckloads of time for those who are truly passionate about their beliefs and is willing to share that (whether in story, song, art, whatever). Hearing someone speak their own truth, whether shy or nervous, is the most wonderful thing, and a true privilege. Please join me at my campfire, I’d love to hear your tale.

Seekers, too, are fully welcome. We are all on a learning journey called Life, and to admit it and settle down for a good discussion is fantastic. Especially when your own beliefs can be challenged, exercising both mental and spiritual faculties, but (hopefully) with enough humour that the light of inspiration is kindled.

However, hearing someone tell you how they personally caused a hurricane over a country in the far East because that country eats dogs makes me want to plant that person’s face into a wall. Yes, really.

I firmly believe that spirituality is not incompatible with reality. But nor is it a crutch, or an excuse for certain behaviour. I may be fairly liberal-minded, but the level of criticism that some Pagans throw at other faiths leads me to think that while they’ve had bad experiences, I don’t blame those other faiths for yelling back. Nobody has ever been converted by others yelling at them. No, I’m not going to Hell. Yes, I have considered how God affects the world today. I’ll listen to you, if you listen to me…

And don’t even get me started on those who use a made-up title to play power games with others (especially the young). You’ll get what’s coming to you, sir or madam – maybe even times three. But allow me to help…

These views are entirely mine. The examples above are all absolutely real (scarily). We are all human.I have my faults too, Lord knows. (Yes, my Lord. He’s fully aware, thanks.)

But my path encourages connection and relationship. Responsibility and consideration. If your words aren’t helping, then what are you saying them for? If you’ve made a promise, why haven’t you kept it? We all do it, but learn from your mistakes.

I think, ultimately, while the old ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all’ adage can be useful (a simple ‘smile and walk away’ response works wonders), if we as Pagans – and humans – took a little more responsibility, lived the tenets of the faith we profess to follow, and had more awareness for others of our path, we’d be taken far more seriously by those others, as well as the wider world. True respect is a powerful thing.

I’m sure this post will piss some people off. It’s not really intended to, but it’s a possible and acknowledged consequence of not being as polite as I perhaps should be. But as I said at the start, it’s a rant – so a bit tongue in cheek, but which grew out of actions that genuinely pissed ME off. Sometimes, things need to be said, or you end up yourself being fluffy and tolerant to the point of ludicrous.

If you don’t like something, that’s fine – move away. Or challenge it. Challenge me, I’m here.

Fancy a discussion?

😉

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Looking Forward

This weekend, my partner and I journeyed South(ish) to meet up with my fellow Trustees of The Druid Network at our Annual General Meeting. While wonderful to spend time socially with folk who have become good and true friends over recent years (despite being scattered around the country), it was a time for work, for focused intention and decision. Where would our Druidry take us over the coming year, and where do we see the Network going into the future?

Now as this is a personal blog, I won’t be going into too much detail about the organisation. Visit The Druid Network website for more information; members can see the Minutes and Actions from the meeting.

But suffice to say, my thoughts of recent weeks seemed to coalesce in this organised setting. This year is now starting to really move as the earth around us wakes up to Spring (in this hemisphere at least), and the energy is rising accordingly. A lot of ideas sprang forth as we inspired each other, with shared goals, motivations and awareness of representing a larger number of people.

However, as I call myself ‘Druid’, I cannot possibly represent everyone who does likewise. Nor can any group, however inclusive. This is why the Network appeals to me – each and every person involved, whether they call themselves ‘Druid’ or some other term (if any) brings their own unique individuality to bear as part of a larger whole. A book of many themes, a picture of many colours. Nobody will be told how to practise their own faith. Challenged and questioned, yes, but that comes as part and parcel of the Druid deal!

Both I and my colleagues have to maintain awareness of that larger community, and gauge the needs and restrictions of the wider world that we work within. While our own personal practice may (and should) be individual, Druidry includes an awareness of the currents in which we flow. The world is moving forward and so are we. How are we setting our course within that?

No faith can remain static, or it stagnates. Paganism especially, as a relatively ‘new’ practice (despite its heritage) is still finding its feet, working hard to be recognised in an increasingly secular and cynical world, but also determining practical purpose. It’s all very well to call for ‘world peace’, but how are we helping that? If we spend our lives arguing and complaining, we’re working against our own dream, right there. Loudly proclaiming what we are not doesn’t really help us find what we are.

We have to stand as examples of our faith, our belief, our truth, while constantly challenging it to ensure that it remains relevant as we and the world change and grow. As I’ve said, people are coming to those public Pagan figures more and more often, whether to just shyly ask a question or to outright ask to be helped. Those of us who stand up have to be prepared to deal with whatever comes from that.

So where are the tides of 2012 (and beyond) taking us? More people are becoming interested in what this ‘Druidry’ thing is, as they wake up to the need to question and explore in order to find a little personal meaning in a fast-paced and busy life that seems almost dictated: birth, school, work, marriage, children, death. There’s so much more than that, as we’re all finally realizing. The old systems are failing; those institutions that we relied on so much aren’t giving back what they promised. We’re driven to look deeper.

Druidry doesn’t offer ‘all the answers’. No religion does – or if it does, it may be embroidering the truth just a little (yes, science, I’m looking at you too). The answer is different for every person. A hard concept to grasp, but true.

How do you live your life? That’s up to you. But to live it with awareness of your own needs and those within a wider community, as part of a family, bloodline, group of friends, neighbours, citizens, species, ecosystem… there’s so much more than we are told. We’ve grown afraid, then selfish, insular. It’s time to be brave and step up.

The Druid is an explorer as well. One who knows that if there’s a map, it may be wrong, but that’s ok – we’ve got paper and pen. And this map won’t just be visual: it’ll encompass all the senses, including that mental and spiritual awareness that science hasn’t really explored yet.

The ancient Druids filled so many roles in their communities. Ultimately, us modern Druids do our best for those we serve – both those official ‘members’ and everyone else who comes asking. We do this with awareness of the flows of life, the wider world (geographical, social, political, historical), with our feet on the ground but also between the worlds, known and unknown. Our faith sustains us: in ourselves and those who stand and walk with us, human and non-human, past, present and future.

Ultimately, we are human too, of course. And this thing called ‘Druidry’ means that we recognise our shared humanity, our connection, our similarities and differences. And with that, we chart a course, establish our aims, and move forward. It’s not about ‘quick fixes’, it’s about evolution.

We don’t know what will come, but we’ll ride it, whatever it is, doing our best: to represent, to serve, to bear witness, to guide. To live with honour and truth, as individuals within a larger Universe.

We can’t know it all, but we can learn to laugh and dance (and pause for tears) as we undertake our journies, both alone and together.

That ‘second star to the right’ is closer than we think.

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Druidry as Relevant

Apologies for the large pause since my last post. Life has been interesting.

In the last week, my life has changed dramatically. As the frequency of paid work has been low, I resolved at the end of 2011 to take a step that I’d been considering for some time, but which had somehow not seemed ‘viable’ before.

I now have my own little work-place at a beautiful ‘Healing Rooms’ business 15 minutes from my home. From there, I’m offering my services as a Druid – from multifaith advice to planning of ritual, teaching, support, and generally Working in the Community.

It’s exciting. But also terrifying. Because as far as I know, this has not been done before. I’m entirely treading new ground.

Except I’m not really, am I? I’m doing precisely what those ‘ancient’ Druids did – I’m in my locality, offering my skills as needed, in return for enough in return to keep myself and my household going (or at least, that’s the plan).

The level of support I’ve received has been astonishing. Friends have donated gifts to help, word of mouth is entirely positive – this really  does seem to be something that is both wanted and needed, not just another woolly ‘New Age’ fad.

The challenges, however, have started to come in the form of the ‘real’ working world. Insurance to cover ‘spiritual services’. Renewing CRB accreditation. Trying to find out what certification I have to do what I do (there is none, nor any auditing body!).

Issues have struck me that would never have occurred before. Insurance implies that I may be sued by unhappy ‘customers’. I’m not sure how I’d deal with that (and hope I never have to). Charging for services, with all the attached politics – how much, how do I justify costs, how do I balance my survival needs with expectations of the work? Once money’s involved, the entire playing field changes.

And yet, at the end of it, I’m sitting here in my beautiful little room, while outside is a busy street. School-children on their way to lessons, shoppers heading into town. I’m here. I’m really doing it.

When I go home, there’s still more. Review books to sort (and read!), research to undertake. And that’s as well as basic housework!

It’s all setting a foundation. My book is on schedule for publication in the Summer, I’m being asked to perform talks and workshops around the country. There’s talk of a signing tour. More public rituals are being planned. But it’s all amorphous, in the future. I know it’ll come soon enough, but in the meantime there are bills to pay.

We get by, but I’ve been cutting back. This really is living with awareness of the practicalities of life, the necessities, what needs to be done. I must do my work well, otherwise I won’t get paid, because nobody will be interested. Simple relationships of supply and demand.

And therein is the lesson. I’m now working actively and intentionally with my Druidry for others every day on a much stronger basis than ever before. My awareness of energy has increased hugely; my connection to the world around is constantly reinforced. My learning curve has shot up, as my life and my work truly do combine.

It’s been exhausting. I almost bottomed out last week, just from doing as I usually do – giving my all to whatever I’m working on. But doing that every day means that I’m left with only just enough for myself afterwards. New routines must be established, new personal modes of practice to take care of myself.

There’ve been comments that I’m ‘lucky’ to be doing this. Not really – it’s necessity. If I wasn’t here, I’d be at home, keeping busy but mainly looking for other jobs to pay the mortgage. I’m out in the world, working hard.

And it’s the energy exchange, that giving and receiving, that keeps me going.

I truly am learning – and I’m very glad of the lessons. Because the wonderful response I’m getting so far is proof that I’m doing something right.

Onwards indeed.

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Solstice Blessings!

This morning, I watched the sun rise over Nottingham City, from the beautiful grounds of Wollaton Hall. A friendly oak tree scattering leaves in my hair, ancient woodland with birds chasing, squirrels taking advantage of the unseasonable warmth (10 centigrade) to forage for food…

And me, with the lady from the BBC. I’m at 2:17 here, if you want to hear what I sound like!

I love those moments as the sky changes with the dawn (and dusk, later). The gradual realization that the deep blackness is being broken by shards of greyness, the clouds becoming limned with light, the stars fading as their place is taken by pink and orange beams. The world moves forward and the sun rises again.

So simple, the start of another day, and yet such a singular moment. Each one is unique – this day will never come again, this moment. And I bear witness, in the company of many others across the land.

Blessings of the season to you all, lovely readers. May you stay warm and safe with those you love through the dark and cold times, sharing the joy as light gradually returns to the land.

Merry Yuletide! x

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Druidry – Ancient & Modern

I’m currently busy formulating the upcoming Druidry Workshops that I’ll be running over the next year (see the ‘Workshops’ page on the right for specifics), with a brief taster session this coming week. And so naturally I’ve got to thinking over that original question that is the jumping off point for all others I get: ‘What IS Druidry?’

Specifically, what is this thing that I do – and can I really call it ‘Druidry?’ After all, nobody really knows what the ancient Druids got up to, do they?

I’ve heard so many answers to this. From ‘no, we know nothing really, because the Roman records are all propaganda’ to ‘we know far more than you think, because there’s been a secret, unbroken line of oral knowledge from the ancient teachers’… so Richard Dawkins-esque debunking to Da Vinci Code conspiracies. And none of it terribly helpful to either answering the original question or to everyday lived practice.

The lovely Bryn then sent me a book review this morning, for Ronald Hutton’s book, ‘Blood & Mistletoe‘. It sums up very succinctly both the problem and a suggested solution:

‘Putting everyone in their context, from classical writers onwards, what Hutton makes clear is the rather depressing fact that we don’t know a great deal. There are many tantalising possibilities, many details that might of course be true but the odds are we will never prove any of it conclusively. What Hutton also illustrates is a long history of appropriation, as all kinds of people have borrowed the ancient Druids and dressed them up in their own agenda.

There were points reading this book when I felt very depressed indeed. On the whole I would rather be honestly depressed than clinging to illusions. I came away from this book with a number of thoughts. One, that we probably have to embrace the not knowing. Two, that every ancient faith out there finds itself at odds with definitive historical records. Three, that inspiration may be more important than hard fact, and four, that what we do with this will be the measure of us, not what we can ’prove’ about what ancient druids got up to.

I think there are a number of issues modern druids need to consider, in terms of how we position ourselves in relation to the past. What of the ancient writing about the druids do we choose to accept and what do we decide to reject? Do we believe that the mediaeval ‘celtic’ writings represent a valid source for modern druids? What of the inspiration from the eighteenth century onwards do we want to keep claiming, and what, if any, is too dishonourably crafted to serve us further? I very much doubt we’re all going to settle on one definitive answer here, which is probably as well.’

To my delight, Damh the Bard has just interjected his own explanation via MP3: ‘Some people don’t understand when I say “These are the things I believe.”‘ (From ‘The Hills They Are Hollow, used without permission but with grateful thanks!).

As I’ve said before, ‘Druidry’ is a term that I (and many others) use to roughly describe a particular ethical and spiritual practice. There are, we believe, parallels with that ancient faith that we know so little about, but ultimately we don’t practise anything in the same manner as our ancestors two millennia ago – nor should we, as by now it would be largely irrelevant. While human truths about life and death still stand, our ways of living are very different.

So, in this world of deified science, political correctness and equality, isn’t it in fact amazing that people are still interested in spirituality at all? Isn’t it irrelevant? I don’t think so.

While the context has changed, the quest for answers goes on. For every solution science throws up, more questions appear – and that’s part of the wonder of life, the universe and our place in it. This, for me, is where my Druidry comes in.

We are PART of the universe. Like it or not, we are not above all other life-forms, somehow apart and superior – we’re part of the big scheme of things, the chaos of natural disasters and the order of the food chain. The realization that in this ‘modern’ world of computers, DNA and international information networks, we are still subject to anything can be extremely uncomfortable.

This spirituality I call Druidry does not provide easy explanations that I must take on blind faith. Yes, I have faith – in the Nature that I see all around me. As I do things it probably doesn’t understand, so it returns the favour!

As we move forward into the ‘advanced’ 21st Century, more and more we are waking up to knowledge of our own ignorance – hence looking back for answers that we may have forgotten. Historical validation seems to be important to the newer Pagan faiths, but rather than a form of desperation, it  can be seen as re-realizing that our ancestors were working just as hard to understand the world they lived in as we are… and their words have value if we truly listen.

Being part of Nature is not just a geographic experience, but a temporal one as well. Shamanic teaching holds that all time is relative and can be experienced as circular, rather than linear – as any child who watches ‘Dr Who’ knows, we can do our best to understand our ancestors, past and future, through imagination and visualisation. As adults, we can learn from investigation and greater understanding of humanity and our own families, and from spiritual exploration (if we know how to look).

My Druidry is being a Priest of the Land. Working with it, on it and beside it, being curious and loving in relationship. Aware that as a human being, I will make mistakes, fall and get up again, with the ground always there to meet me… hopefully knocking some sense in through experience!

Who can truly say that they understand what’s going on in life – with the world, even with our own species? It’s an endless quest, but striving for greater understanding of our interconnected relationship as a sacred responsibility in life helps to keep me grounded and moving on this path.

I’m also endlessly glad that so many others are with me.

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Everybody Knows…

I’ve noticed that one of the most common conversation-starters recently is ‘You’re never going to believe this but…’ or ‘I’m not crazy but…’

When people find out that you may be even a little bit sympathetic or knowledgeable about ‘the supernatural’, the stories start flowing. Ghosts, strange experiences, things that you don’t talk about as a matter of normal life for fear of being mocked, embarrassed or locked up in a room with rubber walls and crayons.

This week, I heard some wonderful tales about a ghost kitten that plays with the living cats around a house, a policeman who still performs his duties in what is now a domestic residence, the comparative effect of personal energy levels based on the weather, crystals or other people… call it what you will, there are things in this world that are currently unexplainable, but commonly felt.

I’ve never studied science formally past GCSE level, but have become fascinated with quantum theory and the effect of energies as we discover more and more about this great universe. I once asked an online science forum whether there were any studies of human energies (eg auric fields and suchlike) with a view to investigating how they can affect and be affected by their surroundings. Given that we clearly produce energy – by being living beings – the response I received was rather surprising. “Why bother, what’s the point?” Basically, such theories would be ‘bad science’, and best left to the likes of Uri Geller.

And yet, the theory is clearly tacitly understood by most of us. The ‘Matrix’ movies openly suggest human bodies can be used as batteries. A unit of energy consumed and burned by every one of us every day is immediately familiar – the calorie. These are the same calories that can be quantified by burning any fuel: coal has a calorie content (bad news for those pregnant ladies out there).

One of the basic beginner lessons in most ‘magic’ or energy work texts is the simple game of rubbing your hands together fast, then separating them while still remaining aware of the charge between your palms. Once you become more skilled, you can become able to sense (or even see) the energies of others, or direct focused energy yourself. From using a wand, a staff or even your finger, most of us have been ‘zapped’ at one time or another – hence ‘grounding’ is also a crucial beginner lesson.

Short of being nervous of the unknown, I am puzzled as to why so many feel such familiar actions or mysteries are not worthy of study – perhaps because the empirical scientific method may not be able to accurately assign meaning and category easily. Surely Jung’s widely known theories of the collective unconscious are worth pursuing? If divination is bunkum, why is it still practised – and practised successfully? There are still many things to be discovered about both the world around us and ourselves in relationship – curiosity should be encouraged, not stifled!

As I said at the beginning,  a lot of people simply want to tell me about their experiences, with a look in their eyes that just hopes I understand. They’re not mad. They experienced something as real as a handshake, as solid as a wall, as visible and tangible as anything else around us. To be then told that this was somehow ‘not valid, not real’ is both disrespectful and, frankly, ignorant.

Why simply ignore another’s story? Dismissing someone without listening, without even attempting to understand, degrades them and prevents you from possibly learning something new. Even if it’s something so unusual, unfamiliar or frightening, I try my best to comprehend what they experienced, to listen to the tone beyond the words – why are they telling me? Do they expect me to have an explanation (sometimes), or just wanting to be heard (more usually)?

Yes, sometimes judgment is impaired. Sometimes there is misdirection going on, misunderstanding or simply assigning the unusual to a basic activity for the sake of excitement or a ‘wow’ factor. But still, it can make a good story! Very few tales are utterly worthless; there is always a reason behind the telling, as well as the ‘data’ involved. Is it worth exploring further? Maybe, maybe not – but we all know, inside, that everyone has experienced something unexplainable. It’s whether they are brave enough to look deeper, or not.

If you’re walking this path of modern paganism, you’ll have experienced so much unusual ‘stuff’ that it’s probably not even unusual anymore. That’s the next level – realizing that the ‘supernatural’ isn’t. Even if we can’t quantify it with statistics, what exists in nature is, by definition, natural. So our experience is immediately validated – let’s press on, try to see what it means.

We’re just starting to move clearly into the dark time of the year. People are starting to think about Halloween, ghost-walks are going on in town centres, the television is full of ‘alternative’ entertainment. Ultimately, we as society like a good story, and a ghost story around the campfire is a tradition as old as humanity. We come to learn about living with the unexplained because we have to – there’s not an easy answer to everything.

But as the scientist can explain the intricacies of a healing drug, the engineer the workings of technology, so the druid, shaman or priest can help with the stranger side of life. Yes, it can be silly or funny to hear about a ‘supernatural’ experience… but it can also be deeply disturbing. This is why most feel the need to share with an ‘specialist’. Why they come up to me and nervously stammer ‘you’ll probably think I’m nuts, but…’

No. I don’t. I’ll listen. And then we’ll see what next. We move on together, explore, work with that connection.

Life is full of magic and mystery, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s up to us what we make of it.

Keep exploring, friends. The fire’s burning over here, if you want to come and sit awhile.

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The Druidry Wot I Does

I have read of what the ancient Druids used to do, in words written years later by Roman historians.

I have read what modern Druids do, in the UK, Canada, America and Australia.

I have read what fictional Druids do.

I have stood on a mountain-top in Wales on a freezing dawn, after an hour’s hard walk, watching the sun rise over the sea and sharing visions.

I have stood in the rain, soaked through, cloak stuck to me and laughing as the spirits of water are thanked very much for their presence but could they stop now please!

I have stood in a circle of expectant Muggles, witnessing the joining of two people, witnessing one of the most important days of their lives. With the responsibility of holding that energy, with all of the concerns, fears and joys, whilst explaining it to those who simply have no basis for comparison on what it occurring.

I have sat in the dark, alone, at the bottom of a pit, unsure even of which direction to look next, let alone where to step.

I have spoken on National Radio via telephone an hour before a major ritual, standing in my kitchen and trying to imagine who might be listening.

I have been pulled into giving a talk on Druidry with five minutes’ notice, trying to speak my truth honestly and create understanding, while forcing myself to forget the all-encompassing phobia of public speaking from my schooldays.

People ask and I am there for them when needed. I remind myself that it all carries on when alone and I need solace for myself.

Druidry is connection, relationship, to each other and the greater world. Responsibility for yourself and others, human and non-human, with a view to gaining a greater understanding of our place and what we are doing in this life. And while always alone, we are never truly isolated – there is always someone there.

That’s a start.

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