Posts Tagged spiritual

Words for ‘Me’

‘Start writing…’

Thankyou, WordPress. That’s a great help.

That instruction is actually a good one, but it’s easier to do when I just let my brain move my fingers without too much inbetween. Let’s see how this goes.

I haven’t written about Druidry for a while. There’s a reason for this.

I’ve often said that labels frustrate me, but that ‘druid’ is the closest to what I actually do, in terms of practice, belief, etc.

That’s kind of still true… but also it’s never been wrong-er (BA English Lit, a passport to ruining the English language with impunity).

I’ve been peeling back layers over recent months, both voluntarily and not. Imagine ripping off multiple plasters. Some of which have been on for a really long time (ow/ick).

Druidry is still What I Do. But it’s by no means the only thing I do.

I tried to visualise some sort of diagram to illustrate my thought process here. Probably something like this, but messier:

(Taken from Miskatonic University Press. Yes, really.)

My work is mostly Druidry. But there’s also shades of Witch, Heathen, Spiritualist, Medium, Seer, Mystic… so many words with subtly-shaded differences.

My physical self has some extras: Wounded Healer. Chronically-ill. Major Depressive. I would probably be a Mad Wife in the Attic if we had an attic.

And then there’s all the other things. Old Goth. Middle-aged. Crazy lady. ‘Writer’ should feature somewhere. Crafter. Yarn-wrangler. Wordsmith. Carer to the lost. Holder of hope. Maker of tea. Aspiring Time Lady.

I’ve not been well lately, not at all. I’m getting regular therapy at last, which is an absolute miracle. But it feels as if I’m working through… something. To bring together those parts that are Me, and jettison those that no longer serve or apply. I’m finding some interesting new ones, too. They were hiding until now.

Part of the thought-process was comparing myself to others, as inevitably happens. I didn’t always like what I saw. Egos and power-trippers, those who spoke lots but did little. Those who didn’t seem to feel or care.

I may have been too judgmental for some. I know I wasn’t always. But the idea that if a specific title was shared by both me and another (very different) person was difficult to resolve.

That’s my ego talking, obviously. I know that titles are broad strokes used to describe something. But this led to the idea of subtle shadings.

I think that we need to remember that a single word cannot define us. Not even a few words. A lifetime cannot – and should not – be reduced in such a way. It’s ignorant, over-simplified and wrong.

We are each many things, and exploring those is part of the fun of getting to know people. I think my Things are changing, some more dramatically than others. I always try to be true, though – to myself and to those I hold close.

I’ll try to keep exploring. My mental illness has been trying to draw a line under things and begin to write ‘The En…’, but I won’t let it. I’m not done yet.

Thankyou so much to those of you who are still here. I love you all, truly.

Oh, and by the way, someone recently commented on my last post. They said I ‘sound like a total victim.’

That’s absolutely NOT a word I’d use for myself. The fact that I’m still here should demonstrate that well enough.

Determined. That, I’ll take.

Much love, friends.

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Review: The Burnt Watcher

The Burnt Watcher Cover

This book was recommended to me by Nimue Brown, which kindled a lovely friendship with the author! I would say that any bias is unintended, but…

This book is absolutely in my Top 10 Reads of 2020. For a first-time, independently-published novel, it caught me up in its tale and I found myself trapped within its pages late into the night.

‘Five hundred years ago the old world burned and the Fear rose from the ashes and the Glass. Watchers knew the Fear and found the ways of fighting it, enabling the world to be built anew.’

This may be the calmest post-apocalyptic novel I’ve ever read. It starts long after the Big Catastrophic Event, and reminded me at first of Ellis Peters’ ‘Cadfael’ books: a spiritual man, injured in the course of his work and seeking peace and quiet, pulled into a mystery from a world he’d left behind.

Master Grey is a Watcher, trained to fight The Fear which destroyed the ancient cities and drove all survivors into the countryside. This is recognisably England, albeit with slightly changed names (watch out for the dangers of the M4 motorway!), with technology that is something between medieval and steampunk, born of practicality and without using any concrete whatsoever.

I love how Master Grey leads us through his world. He assumes that those hearing his tale already understand the foundations of his society, so doesn’t go out of his way to explain them – there’s little exposition here. He remembers events and people as they’re important to him, and so the reader is able to build the world he moves through it.

The Fear hasn’t been seen in many years, so the Watchers are now few in number. However, we soon learn that it has certainly not disappeared, but is working subtly in the background while humanity starts to forget. Yes, magic is present here, but in a very practical manner… and scoffed at by the ‘educated, civilized’ folk. Until they have need of it.

The author uses his own interpretation of folk magic such as ley lines and runes to create a very grounded spiritual tradition that quickly seems very natural. I’d be intrigued to see how the society of the book formed post-event, but at the same time it’s tremendous fun to figure it out myself.

There’s a few influences here, I’d guess, but all combine to make a fascinating world. From Cadfael we move to the Swiftian bureacracy of middle England, then on to ‘The Wicker Man’ (or even ‘Deliverance’), with shades of ‘Rivers of London’ and ‘Neverwhere’. I use these as hints, by the way – the book is absolutely its own creature – but if you like any of the above, you’ll likely enjoy this.

Before you know it the gentle pace has ramped up, and by the end is hurtling along as we read faster and faster to see how Master Grey will discover what’s going on, defeat the Fear, and how even more  damaged he might be as a result.

I understand that there is a sequel (or two) in the works, and they can’t come fast enough!

I love being recommended new books, and this is one Find that I’m happy to sing the praises of. Absolutely do seek it out.

The Burnt Watcher‘ is available for Kindle and in paperback via Amazon.

 

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A Happy Medium

I’ve been watching the ‘Insidious’ movies recently. Fun horror films, they’re well crafted and I enjoy them.

Today was part three of the series, which allowed Lin Shaye, who plays the psychic ‘hero’ throughout, to really show how an older lady can stand in her power!

I watched with a smile. I have done since this lady’s first appearance: pleasant and happy, kind and understanding. Before she has to fix the craziness around her.

It’s interesting to see how ‘psychic’ folk are portrayed in film. I think my first exposure to this was the haunting Zelda Rubenstein in ‘Poltergeist’ (I still don’t understand how that movie is rated PG!). I learned that psychics are usually women, often with odd quirks, and people mock them… before calling on them for help.

Years later, Uri Geller rose to fame. Derek Acorah too. I hear that they’re both pleasant gentlemen. But the jokes still come.

It’s very difficult to discern what is and isn’t ‘true’ when watching depictions of such work. TV can play tricks so easily, after all.

I learned more as I grew older. That people don’t want to be told things from the world of spirit. They might think they do, but the disbelief comes because ‘why can’t I hear it?’

Some choose to listen. Some don’t. That’s fine. I understand (and have written about) the Witch’s advice: To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Keep Silent. This can be for one’s own protection most of all. I find it sad, generally, but there it is.

Since becoming a Public Druid Priest, I’ve heard so many stories. Yes, people sling mud because I’m stepping up to do this (I’m a Druid – I can deal with mud). However, I’ve also been able to help more than a few. People feel able to come to me. I’m the smiling lady at the door, offering to help. I’ve met many others like me, and we always share that look of understanding.

I stand beneath a huge, ancient yew tree, showing a scared man that he did have the power to make change.

I watch ancestors reach out to bless their children during celebrations.

Sometimes it’s reassurance. Sometimes warnings. Since I was young, I learned to tread carefully with sharing what I saw and felt. But if the recipient is truly ready, asking honestly and sincerely, the information imparted will strike a chord and be used well.

I often wonder now about the psychic folk at the MBS fairs. I have no doubt that many are absolutely sincere. There’s probably a few charlatans. That’s not my place to judge (although I nearly lost it at a spiritualist church years ago, when I witnessed a display of astounding fakery… I settled for glowering instead).

How much we choose to connect is up to us. We do have that power. The hard part is trusting it, and sometimes that’s easier when coming from someone else (also a huge trust issue).

I’m glad of the ‘Insidious’ psychic lady. She shows how powerful a true walker between worlds can be – and how friendly, back in reality.

Feel free to explore, my friends. Very few (if any) of us are without companionable protection. And there are those you can go to who’ll always hold the lantern to light your way forward.

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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.

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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Really Real

It seems a common topic of conversation these days that the world is pretty chaotic. We find so many things hard to understand – from violence in the name of peaceful religion, to laws which seem to increase suffering for some in the ‘best interests’ of others, or just decisions to which we can only stammer ‘But… but… that’s just wrong!’ At heartfelt level, become intellect and rationality, we know this and are flummoxed that the other person cannot even grasp the possibility.

The craziness of ‘everyday’ life is brought home to me often, largely because of my work as a Professional Priest. This brings two worlds colliding in a very real sense. The secular, normal, nuts-and-bolts life that generally allows for the concept of spirituality but with an undercurrent of nervousness, unsure how to engage with it for fear of offending – and the spiritual, soul-deep understanding that we are actually all humans muddling through some greater journey together, albeit with a similar suspicion that the 9-5 family-and-day-job is mad in its own way. Is one more important than another? Is one more real than another?

Both worlds do acknowledge that we need help sometimes (though even asking for that can be a challenge in itself). We know that the ancients combined the roles of Support Staff – the Druid or Shaman could be a doctor, a teacher, a priest, a midwife. They were educated to do so, and saw those roles as interconnected.

So this compartmentalisation of life is perhaps helpful to organise the chaos in a general sense, but less so when trying to gauge how these parts come together within us, in fully understanding – going beyond a soundbite or simplification (including my brief descriptions here).

As I say, in my work as Priest, I see this line blurring between the Real and the Cosmic (yes, I know, both words are wildly inaccurate, but bear with me). I’ve been researching Mysticism for a while now, as well as Spiritual Crisis, and come across many tales where someone’s intense mystical experience – that is, engaging at deep level with Spirit – transforms their understanding of life to the extent that what is perhaps called madness ensues. This is a relatively new theory, whereby psychoses or neuroses are not in fact negative or harmful, but ways of processing experiences that our society does not allow for, understand, teach about or even acknowledge (except as ‘illness’).

While a new theory, it’s not a new concept. Many historic mystics suffered from physical and mental illness, and it could be argued that this affected artists and other creative folk too (Van Gogh leaps to mind, as well as Virginia Woolf, Byron, Sylvia Plath and any number of others). The Druid expression of the ‘Fire in the Head’ that affected the Bard in the grip of Awen/Inspiration also rings true here.

However, I’ve also been fortunate enough to see this from an entirely new perspective lately – in an enclosed community with its own rules and ways of life, outside of the regular everyday that most of us are used to.

Since December, I’ve been working as a Prison Chaplain. Even in this short time, the dramatic difference between the world inside the bars and that ‘on the outside’ has struck home to me, and I’ve no doubt that it will continue to do so. I am constantly learning from those I minister to and with. But one remarkable fact keeps raising its head.

Within this contained society of hard-core criminals, respect and understanding is given to the spiritual in an entirely different manner to that which I’m used to. I’m often approached by prisoners and asked what I’m doing, as a woman in a man’s world; I reply that I’m the Pagan Chaplain. I’ve noticed that this is met with an expression of wonder, more questions (as is normal) but also a far greater willingness to engage, to discuss spiritual matters and personal problems. While social masks are often still in place (for survival if nothing else), my being present as a Spiritual Professional is respected and appreciated. I’m welcomed in a refreshing manner, as virtually everyone acknowledges that my job is needed, and they’re glad that I’m there.

This does happen on the outside, but it is far rarer. It might be political correctness or simply not being sure how to ask what’s on your mind, but this is one of my main reasons for working hard to be approachable, down-to-earth and Real (as I’m often described!) – because for me, that line between the secular and the spiritual is pretty much pointless. And in the prison environment, I’m able to actually breathe more freely, because those around – without even conscious awareness – feel the same.

This week, a good friend asked about the viability of Pagan enclosed communities (almost like convents or monasteries), to more freely explore the spiritual and mystical in a safe environment without all the noise of the everyday world. This would be voluntary isolation, but I had to smile, seeing interesting parallels. Do we need to separate ourselves to really engage with our spirituality?

What works to get you through life? What do we honestly feel and believe? Why shouldn’t we talk about it, figure it out with others, share and connect? Why are we so afraid?

Perhaps it is these perceived boundaries which are the true bars, resulting in the mental illness, confusion or unhelpful isolation – because we don’t know how to process true experiences that we have within the ‘real life’ around us. Perhaps this is why the Priest is becoming even more relevant and necessary, rather than less.

The Priest might not have all the answers, but they are at least honest enough to listen and walk alongside to find the way forward through the chaos together. And so they are doctor, teacher and so much more stiill, here in this 21st century world.

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