Love

Love doesn’t have to be a close thing
Of bodies touching, writhing.

Love doesn’t have to be returned
To still be felt heart deep.

Love can reach across oceans,
Drift with winds over mountains
And into valleys.

Love has many tastes and yet none,
Many textures, sounds and colours
Yet is indescribable.

Love is simple and yet so very complex,
Strong yet so very fragile.

Love is in my mind and in my soul.
Love doesn’t have to be a close thing.

By Potia.

Sweet Darkness

Sweet Darkness will you hold me?
Let me rest in your embrace?
The day is harsh and painful
Please hide my tear streaked face.

Gentle Darkness will you hold me?
Let me feel your soothing touch?
My heart is sore, my head is full,
I need your peace so much.

I know that I can find you
When the moon has gone away.
In star lit skies I see you
Until the break of day.

Now dawn begins Her journey
She starts to paint the sky.
Sweet Darkness I must leave you
For in daylight you are shy.

And I must walk in sunlight
Beneath the painful glare,
Where other people judge me,
But some of them still care.

Gentle Darkness I will find you
When day retreats from night.
I’ll rest within your presence,
Find strength again to fight.

By Potia

I Prefer Individualism Over Gate Keeping

This, so much this!

Life With Trickster Gods

I am a Pagan. I am a Druid. I am a Polytheist. I believe the Gods are real. I believe They are all separate, unique entities that can be experienced in a variety of ways. I know there are other Pagans that believe similar to me. Just as I know there are other Pagans that do not believe as I do. There are those that find all of that discomforting. I don’t. I take great comfort in understanding that the Gods are experienced differently by everyone. Why would I take comfort in that thought? Because it means we are all individual, unique human beings. It means we have the Free Will to expand our understanding of Those Beyond our understanding in a manner that speaks to each of us. It means we are not cut from the same mold, that we are as unique as I believe that the Gods…

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Practicalities of a home retreat

I was asked elsewhere if I could write a bit more about the practicalities of doing a home retreat following on from my last post.  The simple answer is yes, the more complicated one is I can tell you what I did and what I learnt from it but this was something planned solely for me so various aspects may not transfer well to others.

The first thing I did after making the decision to have a home based retreat was to plan out what I could do and when. My first initial thoughts had been to just do a day but I felt this wouldn’t really give me enough time to really benefit from the whole process. I think I was right in that.  I decided to do a three day retreat. I felt that would be enough time to feel the benefit but not so much I would start having difficulties in focus while at home.  I didn’t get that quite right but life has ways of throwing up things you don’t anticipate.

Here is the plan I developed:

Aim: To reset mind, emotion and spirit in a busy world

Minimal technology use – no facebook or email checking. Meals to be eaten, and chores to be done, more mindfully. Reading to be spiritually focussed.

Planned daily routine

  1. Morning devotional mediation before breakfast honouring Brigantia
  2. Breakfast
  3. Morning prayer and chanting in honour of Maponnos
  4. Mindful chores
  5. Devotions to and communing with the Herd Mothers
  6. Lunch
  7. Devotions to and communing with the water beings
  8. Afternoon exercise – walking or yoga type stretching
  9. Reading or devotional craft work
  10. Mid afternoon devotions to and communing with Gofannon
  11. Reflection time – may include journaling or blogging
  12. Devotions to and communing with Loki
  13. Dinner
  14. Evening activities – could include reading, crafting or divination
  15. Late evening devotions to and communing with An Cailleach
  16. Bed

As you can see the routine above includes several periods of prayer/communing with different beings. These are the beings I have regular devotional practices with at the current time.

So that was the plan. It didn’t work out quite like that in practice although it wasn’t far off it. I learnt I made a pretty big mistake putting exercise in the early afternoon. It was too soon after lunch and I had to tweak that so I did some reading or craft work after my post lunch devotions in order to let my lunch digest a bit more before doing exercise.  I also usually ended up sitting down and doing a bit of reading after my chores and before doing my pre lunch devotions to the Herd Mothers partially to relax a bit physically after the chores and partially because I had more time available than I anticipated.

In addition to the devotions of the retreat routine I also felt I needed to incorporate my usual daily devotions which include a libation to the being/s I focus on that day.  The retreat devotions did not include libations or other physical offerings. As my retreat took place on a Tuesday to Thursday that meant the first day there was an evening devotional to Brigantia, the second day I honoured my ancestors and the third day I did my evening devotions to Gofannon.

I was pretty good at restricting my online time but I did have the odd quick look at facebook or emails if I was looking for something in particular, for example on Thursday, where I usually join a zoom singing session with Sing aLoud.

Thursday, the last day of the retreat was a more difficult day to keep the retreat focus going. There were a couple of unanticipated interruptions. One was a brief visit from my kids who were staying the week with their dad. Lovely to see them but unexpected and it knocked me off the routine a bit. The other was news from my husband family down south that his mum had taken a turn for the worse and she wanted to him to visit. We had known she wasn’t well but this sounded much worse. Fortunately travel restrictions in Scotland were just lifting and we decided to travel down that weekend to see her. If the travel restrictions hadn’t lifted I think we would have still gone anyway under the circumstances but we didn’t have to make that call. I still completed the retreat but as you can imagine my mind was much less focussed after that news. It did seem apt that I needed to work harder on a day where my daily devotions were honouring Gofannon who UPG tells me appreciates hard work and perseverance.

Things I missed from a home retreat included simply being somewhere else which can help in distancing yourself from your usual routines and interactions with other people. I’m lucky in having a pagan and Druid husband as talking bout some of the things I was reading or thinking about was helpful.  If I did this again I think I’d try and set up a zoom/skype session or two with others I could talk to and reflect on some of my retreat experiences with so probably fellow druid types.

Overall the home retreat did help me with a spiritual reset and I came out of it feeling more strongly connected with the beings I honour. I also came out of it with a desire to re-kindle the druid aspects of my path and signed up for the British Druid Order (BDO) distance bardic course.  I’m also trying to be a bit more active in the Scottish Druids Facebook Group I set up and admin.

Hopefully if you are considering doing some form of home retreat this will give you some ideas to consider in your own planning.

Thoughts on a retreat at home

Today is the second day of an attempt at a home based retreat.  There are good aspects and not so good aspects about trying to do a retreat at home. You can set your own structure with a home based retreat. In the current circumstances of Covid-19 you don’t have to worry about social distancing while travelling or staying somewhere else if you do something on your own and at home. But it is much harder to leave the mundane aspects of your life behind when you stay at home and unless your family joins you in retreat activities you don’t have others to talk to during times of reflection. You also don’t have anyone else keeping you on track for activities.

I developed my own retreat structure which is a mix of devotional time, contemplation, mindful chores and exercise with time each day for reflection too. On the whole it’s working pretty well although there are aspects that I am finding need a bit of tweaking – I definitely wasn’t thinking clearly in putting exercise after lunch for example even with a light lunch. I have also greatly reduced my time on email and Facebook during this retreat and any reading I am doing is focussed around spiritual or religions matters.

I picked this week to try this as my kids are staying with their dad for a week which means my days are not punctuated with their day to day needs. Not that either of them are particularly needy during school holiday periods but there are some care requirements in an autistic family. Technically it’s only one at school now but the lad did try college this year and is now looking at modern apprenticeships. Anyway, I digress, suffice it to say it’s easier to immerse myself in spiritual matters without them here.

Luckily my other half, Neil, is also a druid as many readers will already know so although he hasn’t joined me in this retreat I have been able to talk to him about some aspects.  We had an interesting conversation yesterday while walking round our local park.  In it the idea of Druidry as an entity came up.  This immediately brought to mind a passage I had read earlier that day in the book “Contemplative Druidry” by James Nichol in which Penny Billinton speaks briefly about the concept of egregores although Neil had come to the idea of druidry as an entity in a different way.  I have been musing on the idea ever since.

Druidry as a being,
An egregore.
A child growing
Changing into…

Would Druid then become both the name of someone in a form of relationship, consciously or unconsciously, with “Druidry” and the name of the relationship itself? This could also help explain why it is so difficult to define “Druidry” as it is partially formed by those that have relationships to it. This also changes how I feel about being druid as it becomes my relationship, my connection to the entity “Druidry” and like any of my relationships that will always be unique because it is partly shaped by me, a unique being.

It’s been an interesting experimental home retreat so far and I have one more day to complete my intended aim of a three day home retreat.

 

Musing about my druid path

My journey with druidry began in 1997 at a Pagan Federation conference in London.  At that conference Philip Shallcrass and Emma Restall-Orr, then co-leaders of the British Druid Order (BDO) were giving a talk. I’ve never forgotten it. It was entitled Druidry, druidry, whose got the druidry?” and in that talk Emma and Philip gave an overview of the different types of druids you can find from experiential ones to academic focussed ones and everything in between.  Much of what they mentioned then is as valid today as it was then. I brought a copy of their Druid Directory, copies of the Druid’s Voice magazines and signed up to the BDO journal “Tooth and Claw”.  I loved what I read and heard of the BDO but at that time they didn’t have any distance teaching materials and I was in Glasgow (as I still am). It wasn’t feasible for me to attend face to face events with the BDO so I looked at other druid orders for something closer or distance learning courses.  I ended up with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) as many others have also done.

I sent for their first gwersi and I carried out the initial Bardic initiation which is at the start of the courses for the Spring Equinox in 1998. In the next few years I progressed through the OBOD courses and my mundane life changed too. I started an OBOD seed group in February 1999 with another OBOD member I had met through a local pub moot.  In August 1999 I got married for the first time.  My son was born on 30 August 2001 and that year I was progressing through the Ovate grade materials.  In early 2004 I completed the OBOD Druid grade materials and started exploring further while continuing to co-facilitate what was now our local grove. I also worked with the members of that grove to run an annual conference in Glasgow called DruidCon for a few years. That gave me the opportunity to meet and listen to a number of different Druids.

In 2007 we ran the last of the DruidCon series of conferences. Our grove was fading into the mists and I was pregnant with my daughter who was born in October 2007.  Family needs were increasing and I had less time or energy for moots or conferences.

In the years between completing the OBOD druid grade and now I looked at a range of other druid orders. I learnt things from Celtic Reconstructionist practitioners, joined the Druid Network and found myself at Caer Feddwyd and then into Dun Brython. I learnt a lot with Dun Brython and through that group met the man who became my second husband following my divorce from my first husband.

Along the way I have gone through at least two different phases of questioning whether I I was a druid. My path now dies not look anything like it did in those earlier years.  My practices are regular and devotional. I am a polytheist. The more common style of ritual in a cast circle calling to the four quarters of earth, water, air and fire is not one I really feel comfortable with anymore. When I do use a formal circle (which is rarely if left to my own devices) I call to earth, sea and sky not as separate realms but as the land beneath me, the waters around and through this land and the sky above me. Until recently I had barely used the Druid’s prayer for years or the Druid’s Vow. But somewhere in my heart, somehow I still described myself as druid, hearth druid as my path was focussed around my home and family.

In recent weeks I have found myself returning to my roots and remembering that it all began with the British Druid Order.  That Order too like OBOD has grown and changed over the years but it still has the same heart feel to it. The BDO still feels like home to me even though I have never been able to attend any BDO events. More recently they too have developed distance learning courses. I’ve looked at the bardic sample, read the course descriptions and looked at the costs and I’m thinking…

Perhaps it’s time to return to the beginning and take a different route though the forest of Druidry.

 

Grant, O Spirits, thy protection…

This is the first line of one version of the Druid or Gorsedd Prayer originally published by Iolo Morganwg in his work Barddas in the late 1800’s.  He gives multiple versions but this is a variant on the one adopted for use in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD)

The full prayer in the version I used to use is as follows:

Grant, O Spirits, thy protection
and in protection, strength
and in strength, understanding
and in understanding, knowledge
and in knowledge, the knowledge of justice
and in the knowledge of justice, the love of it
and in the love of it, the love of all existences
and in the love of all existences the love of Spirit and all Goodness.

For various reasons which I won’t go into here I stopped using this prayer on a regular basis years ago but recently the words have been simmering in the background of my mind.  I think this was partially triggered by a recent blog post by Philip Carr-Gomm on The Call for Justice: In the USA and Everywhere

I have been reminded of a story of Iolo Morganwg hosting a series of early gorseddau (basically a series of Druid meetings for those not familiar with the term gorseddau) in 1797. His first that year was at midsummer, the next three months later, presumably at the autumn equinox. During that one due to his known political leanings the meeting was observed by twelve local justices accompanied by a troop of mounted and armed vigilantes. This is referred to in Professor Ronald Hutton’s books “Blood and Mistletoe” and “The Druids”.  P169 in “Blood and Mistletoe” (published 2009) and p161 in “The Druids” (published 2007). Around the time the books were due out I heard a talk by Prof. Hutton in which he brought that story to life in a way that the best storytellers can. I can’t remember his words but he said that a version the Gorsedd prayer would probably have been said at that meeting.  Prof. Hutton brought to life the idea of being at a gathering on a hillside with hostile armed men observing while reciting one of the original Welsh versions of that prayer.  I find it a powerful story.

Would I have the courage to stand reciting that prayer with hostile observers around me? I don’t know. I would first have to overcome my social anxiety to be at any size gathering and that in itself is not an easy thing now.

I am, however, finding the words of that prayer more relevant now than ever before and intend to start using it more often once more.  Where once I used the words Spirit and Spirits I think I will now use Gods so I am addressing the many deities I honour.

Grant, O Gods, thy protection
and in protection, strength
and in strength, understanding
and in understanding, knowledge
and in knowledge, the knowledge of justice
and in the knowledge of justice, the love of it
and in the love of it, the love of all existences
and in the love of all existences the love of Gods and all goodness.

#BlackLivesMatter

“Be polite, clear and respectful when asked a question, but otherwise, keep your mouth shut.”

I hear the grief stricken sobs!

“Do not argue, and speak only in English.”

I hear the screams for Justice!

“Keep your hands visible all the time”

I see the pain, the righteous fury!

“Do not move suddenly and explain any first move.”

I can turn this off, I can walk away.

“Do not make any physical contact and do not resist arrest.”

When will we listen?
When will we act?
How do we change this?
How do I change?

Until #BlackLivesMatter
How can we say all life matters?

 

Quoted text taken from an Editorial: A Time to Listen by Manny Tejeda-Moreno on The Wild Hunt published on 31 May 2020

Cast Adrift

I drift in the seas
Of international uncertainty

I float on the tide
I drift in the seas
Of international uncertainty
My roots cut free

The tethers of my life
Unravel in the winds
Storm tossed, I flounder
I thrash and struggle

I cannot swim in these tides
Powerless, I stop.
Make a choice! Take control!
I turn to the sun’s warmth

I bathe in moonlight
I float under starlit skies
I choose to drift.
I choose to float.

 

Beltane musings

Writing this post has a bitter sweet aspect to it to me.  This is based on the last writing I did before my mum died on a book that was never completed.  I tried to get back to it last year but failed so over the last six months I have used the material for posts here instead.

As many readers will know Beltane is often given the date of 1 May but its origin, like Imbolc, Lughnasadh and Samhain, is agricultural. This means that in the distant past it was triggered by seasonal changes in the local environment. Samhain has developed into the season of the ancestors and become fixed in our hearts and minds with the time of Halloween. Imbolc has a very strong focus on Brighid and has also become a fixed date festival more than one of the first signs of spring. For many, if not most, people Beltane has also made this transition from seasonal to calendar but personally I just don’t feel the energies of Beltane until I begin to see blossom on the hawthorn tree.

When I first wrote these words I had already taken part in a ritual for Beltane with the Tuatha de Bridget group I am a member of long before I had seen any hawthorn blossom. I think this was the first time the group ritual had taken place before I had seen a single hawthorn blossom and it just didn’t feel quite right to me. Spring was late that year, we had a long winter. I wrote this a week later than the ritual I attended and the last couple of days before I wrote had been warm and sunny, summer was finally on the way but still no hawthorn blossom. I’d heard from a friend in Ipswich that he had hawthorn blossom in his garden. I knew that soon the hawthorn would blossom around Glasgow but it wasn’t quite ready. This year as I walk round my local park I can see plenty of hawthorn leaves but the buds for the blossom are still very small.  IT will be a while yet before the hawthorn blossoms round here even with the recent lovely weather we have been having.  My fixation on the hawthorn blossom being the signal for Beltane is not one that has any foundation in any of the fragments of lore I have read. It’s not uncommon for Pagans in the UK to link hawthorn blossoms with Beltane but neither it is as fixed for many as it is for me.

What is known from the remaining fragments of lore gathered from across the UK is the Beltane marked the seasonal change into the summer months. We know that many places lit large communal fires, particularly in Scotland and Ireland but also in Wales, Devon and Cornwall. Often these fires were lit using methods that could have been recognised in neolithic times. In some cases in Scotland offerings of food were cast into the fires such as those referenced in F. M. McNeil’s Silver Bough volume two, in other cases the fires would be jumped by one as a symbolic sacrifice or by many for good fortune. In Ireland there are records of cattle being driven between two fires at this time. We also know that the making of crosses and other charms from Rowan wood was a widespread practice for this time of year, these were used to ward off evil influences.

In areas where livestock farming was widespread it was at this time of year that cattle and sheep would be taken to summer pastures. This is still a practice in some areas of Wales and Scotland although using less manpower and more vehicles to achieve. In past centuries some of the community would have to go with the flocks and herds to watch them over the summer living in purpose built shelters for that time. In Scotland these were called Sheilings, I know there were similar structures in part of Wales.

Another common feature found in records from a wide range of areas was to go “A’ Maying”. Ron Hutton’s Stations of the Sun gives several examples from a range of areas where officials paid for sections of the community to go out and gather flowers and greenery from the surrounding area. Hutton writes of a number of songs and poems that imply that young men and women regularly got up to sexual activities while out gathering flora but he goes on to write:

“It took until the late twentieth century, and the patient labours of demographic historians, to reveal that there was in fact no increase in the number of pregnancies at this season, in or out of marriage. The boom in conceptions came later in the summer.”
(Hutton, 1996 p229)

It seems the beginning of May was and still is a bit damp and chilly for certain types of outdoor activities after all.

At some stage Maypoles were introduced and my understanding is that the first records of them are from the mid fourteenth century but they may have been around before that. According to Hutton these were generally confined to “areas of English influence and language”. Like the fires more common in other areas the maypoles were a focal point for community festivities. By the end of the eighteenth century the use of maypoles began to fade but this symbol was rescued to some extent by the growing folk lore movement of Victorian times.

In fact many of the older traditions virtually disappeared from British communities during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the mid to late twentieth centuries several areas began new versions of these older traditions and now there are vibrant Beltane and Mayday celebrations that take place across the UK.

Note that the hawthorn does not appear as an important part of any of the recorded Beltane traditions but still I cling to hawthorn blossom as the key marker of the season.

For me Beltane marks the final transition from the winter months to the summer months. Some myths, particularly the tale of the “Coming of Angus and Bride” in the Scottish Wonder Tales by Donald A. Macnkenzie, have the Cailleach being defeated at the spring equinox. To me the handover of power is not between Bride and the Cailleach but between Rigantona and the Cailleach at Beltane just as to me it is at Samhain the Cailleach takes up her sovereignty over winter once more. I also don’t see this as a battle but more like a dance. At this time I see the return of Rigantona (or Rhiannon to give Her the more modern name) from the Underworld to the land around my home. It is at this time, marked by the hawthorn blossom, I see Rigantona taking up Her cup of sovereignty for the summer just as at winter She passes it to Her Mother/Sister, the one I know as the Cailleach. So at Beltane on one level I celebrate the transition from winter to summer. On another level I mark the change in which of the goddesses I honour now holds the cup of sovereignty.

For many others this festival is one of fertility and sexuality, marking a marriage between masculine and feminine energies often represented by a maiden goddess and a youthful god. Handfastings, or marriages are popular at this time. Ceremonies often include some form of symbolic joining of sexual energies such as dancing with ribbons round a maypole or choosing a May King and Queen to crown. These are very heterosexual symbols and mythologies and such rites can make those who are gender fluid or non-hetrosexual feel excluded. My own personal symbolism for this time of year is not about sexuality but about sovereignty but the group I am part of is more eclectic in nature and the symbolism is usually more sexual in nature for that group. For the last couple of years though the group has attempted to balance these ideas with the addition of a spirit of change or mischief represented by a hare. This was inspired by a Beltane Faerie Story written by a dear friend of mine, Ferdiad and posted on his blog a few years ago. I encourage anyone writing a group ritual for this time of year to think carefully about the symbolism of what they are doing and think about making the ritual inclusive for a range of sexual and gender identities.

This year though across the world people are looking at different ways of celebrating Beltane due to social distancing or lockdown measures and the COVID-19 virus. There will probably be more online rituals shared and many people will be considering how to mark the season by themselves or with their households. I will be watching for the first signs of hawthorn blossoms locally as I do each year and then I will mark the dance of the seasons once more.

 

References

Hutton, R. (1996) The Stations of the Sun Oxford University Press

F. Marian McNeill (1959) The Silver Bough Vol Two: A Calendar of Scottish National Festivals Candlemas to Harvest Home Stuart Titles Ltd