To be or not to be an author…

I am already an author here on this blog, I’ve also written articles that have been published in the Pagan Dawn magazine in the past.  I am currently musing on the idea of writing a book.  I had tentative ideas of writing a book once before on urban druidry.  That never came to pass and others have written books on forms of urban paganism since that time.  If I go forward this time though it would be something on being a (mostly) Brythonic polytheist.  Brython have plans to write and produce a primer that would cover various aspects of Brythonic polytheism.  I don’t want to write something like that though and frankly I don’t think my scholarship is up to that type of book although I’d probably make a good draft reader for the project if they get that far.  If I do write something, and I’m really not sure if I will, it is likely to be more personal and experiential.

I’ve been on my path as a pagan for a little over twenty years now.  I started learning about druidry with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids  (OBOD) in March 1998. I have grown and developed in that time as you would expect and so has my path.  In the last decade I have developed much more of a Brythonic polytheist practice.  In that time I’ve gone through a number of personal changes as well that have affected all aspects of my life.

We are at a time when books about various polytheist paths are gradually increasing.  Is it time for one on what it is to walk a mostly Brythonic polytheist path?

But why would I write this? For the gods or for my own sense of ego? Probably a bit of both but is the balance right?  Would I do this more for the gods and to give others signposts for their journeys?

And would it be something others would want to read?

I think I could do this but should I?  And if I did would it even get published, be read by others, be enjoyed?

More questions than answers.  I’d welcome thoughts from readers of this blog about this.

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Healing Needs

Over the years I’ve felt the need to do something of a healing nature.  There have also been times I’ve needed some healing support myself.  Most of the time what I have done has been as an individual. I’ve prayed; dedicated and lit candles; developed and carried out healing spells; chanted and sung; sent out distance healing using Reiki; visited people in hospital and given healing in the form of Reiki and similar types of spiritual healing; and I’ve asked for some of these for myself from people I know that also do forms of spiritual healing.

I have a whiteboard hung on the wall by my shrine to those deities I have special relationships with and on it are the names of people I know of that have asked for healing either directly or via a trusted loved one.

I’m not medically trained.  I’m not trained in one of the many and varied healing  and associated professions  and I’ve never been called to do that sort of vital work.  What I can offer, what I do, can not replace good medical care and expertise.  What I offer is something that can support the heart and soul, something that helps with feeling loved, feeling cared for and supported all of which aids physical healing.

Recently though, I have felt the need to do more.

One aspect of doing more is to take on the role of healthcare chaplaincy coordinator with the Scottish Pagan Federation.  The basics of this role is to ensure NHS trusts in Scotland know where to come to if they wish for Pagan information and support.  Another is to provide a visiting service to any Pagan who is in hospital and would like a Pagan visitor.  I can’t do all of this myself by any means but there are volunteers across the country who will do what they can to support Pagans who find themselves in hospital.

The reality of our current society is that much of the longer term healthcare takes place in the home and community.  Now many Pagans will have some form of Pagan community they can turn to for support at these times, that might be an online community or a moot they attend when well enough but there are many that for all sorts of reasons will not have that support.  Part of the role I have with the Scottish Pagan Federation is to try and provide some support for Pagans in Scotland that find themselves isolated and in need due to their health, physical or mental.  Being able to support people though does rely on someone letting the Scottish Pagan Federation (via their contact form) or myself know that there is someone in need support and that’s not always easy in itself as often we don’t like to ask for support for ourselves even when we need it.

But I felt I needed to do something more.  I felt pushed, prodded, urged to set up some form of virtual healing group.  I bounced my ideas of a few others, some of whom are, or have been, involved in other healing groups.  I wanted something which was open to those of any type of Pagan and Heathen path to join.  I wanted something that didn’t restrict how healing was done or sent, other than it would be virtual.  I wanted something that had a central hub that requests to join and requests for healing went through.  And I wanted something that had the potential to grow.

I think in the Pagan Healing Circle that I have set up, I have planted the seeds.  It’s young yet but already I have close to a dozen individuals who have joined me in this circle.  Healing is being sent out for a couple of individuals already and I hope that as word spreads others will ask for healing too.

Healing requests come to me on a dedicated email address.  I then send them out to the rest of the circle and make a note of what date they are sent round.  The plan is that requests stay active for a month unless we get follow-up requests or feedback of some kind asking us to keep sending.  A minimum of a first name and what the healing is for is asked for, I don’t circulate the whole email I receive, just the request itself.  This is to preserve as much privacy as possible while still providing support and healing.

If you want to know more about this healing circle, would like to join or wish to make a healing request please do email me on paganhealingcircle@gmail.com.

Oh and we’ll happily accept healing requests for beloved animal companions too.

Image thanks to Awen Photos

A Scottish Hearth Druid response to the question of how to respond to the varying issues of Brexit, Trump and increasing xenophobia be?

The subject of this post is inspired by a topic of discussion the the Druid Network members’ message board referred to as “social_dot”.  Reading other responses on “social_dot” felt like a clarion call to me to start blogging again.

Following the Brexit vote in the UK I feel that uncertainties and fears have steadily increased.  Added to the issues in the UK, where I live, has been the impact of changes in other influential countries in the world. Trump has in his first few days in office as the president of the United States of America made a number of executive orders that are internationally unpopular (to put it mildly).  Russia’s parliament has approved changes in legislation that seem to set human rights in that country further and further back.  Wars are rife in the Middle East with many other countries across the world involved and yet we still don’t call it a “World War”. And it seems that many countries are choosing to pick on some group or another as the scapegoats for these problems and in doing so become increasingly violent towards that group.  I’ve never been so scared of what the future will bring and yet I recognise that I am in a very privileged position compared to all too many people in this country let alone the rest of the world!

So what can I do?

One of the things I think we have to try and do is help each other to listen without becoming overwhelmed with everything that is going on.  I doubt that I am the only person I know who is struggling against the desire to “bury their head in the sand” and wait for it to be over.  I know I must not do that but I also struggle with figuring out what I can do. I struggle emotionally to believe that my single voice can make any difference and yet intellectually I know that single voices joined together are very powerful.

I am afraid for the future of my country.  I’m afraid for the future of other countries in the world, I am afraid for my children’s futures within this often chaotic world of ours. I am afraid I can’t do anything to make a difference and yet also afraid of standing by and not trying. I am afraid of being alone in my fears and even more afraid that all too many of us share the same fears.

What can I do? One person, one voice.

I can raise my voice for others to listen to so they know they are not alone.

I can listen.

I can witness.

I can act, even if only to type a few words on a keyboard, sign a petition or refuse to let my fears overwhelm me.

Orkney part 2 -guided journeys

Breakfast at our accommodation was excellent and very good fuel for the day ahead.

At 9am our wonderful guides Helen and Mark Woodsford-Dean of Spiritual Orkney joined us. We hadn’t met them face to face before although I had known Helen online for a while. I’d contacted Helen while we were planning the honeymoon trip to ask if she had availability in her calendar for the week we were going to be in Orkney.  She did and we had an exchange of emails and Facebook messages to arrange things during which she planned an itinerary for us based on what I’d told her about the sort of things we wanted to see.

It is possible they might have shown us a couple of places if we’d asked out of friendship  but personally I would have felt guilty taking up their time and expertise during the peak tourist summer season when tour guiding is one of the ways they make a living.  Besides we wanted to see lots of places and having experts showing us around was something we wanted to do. And not just expert tour guides but fellow Pagans and people we knew a bit about.  I can not stress enough how delighted we both are that we went down this route.  Helen and Mark are lovely people and great guides.

Our itinerary for our first full day included the Stones of Stenness, Barnhouse Neolithic Village, Ness of Brodgar, Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae and a couple of hours on the Brough of Birsay.

As we journeyed around we were treated to a wonderful combination of archeological information, including from their own experiences digging at the Ness of Brodgar, and local folklore.

I’m not going to write huge amounts here about these wonderful places for a couple of reasons.  One is that so much has already been written about them, the other is that the experience of being at these places is unique to each person.  What I do have is a few of my husband’s photos to share as a picture can be worth a thousand words.

 

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Stones of Stenness

One of the more profound experiences for me visiting these places was that, thanks to Helen in particular, I could understand more about these places than I would have done otherwise.  Little details that helped me see something more of that ancient way of life that I’m pretty sure I would have overlooked without her explanations. Encouraged by Helen to really look at the houses of Skara Brae for example I could see not only the similarities between each structure but also the little differences that made me think of the way we all like to personalise our own spaces when we can.

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Skara Brae

On the Brough of Birsay (which is reached via a tidal causeway) we saw puffins, fulmars, razorbills and skuars flying from nests and resting places on the cliffs.  We also saw the Viking ruins there with their excellent drainage systems (again I’d never have realised what we were seeing without Helen pointing them out).  We also had the opportunity to scramble through a cave towards the top end of the Brough which Helen referred to a rebirth cave.  It was a couple of steps down to the entrance and then as you made your way through the cave it narrowed  until you came to the opening at the other end and had to crawl to get out.  While we didn’t have the opportunity to make a full formal ritual around doing this it still had that rebirth effect for me at least.

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Puffins on Brough of Birsay

Our second day was also spent with our lovely guides and on that day we visited the cliffs at Yesnaby, Kirbuster Farm museum, the Broch of Gurness, the Tomb of the Dogs, Rennibister Earth House, Happy Valley and Unstan Cairn.  Again I’m using some of my husband’s photos to help show something of our experiences but as there’s less written about some of these places I’ll try and write a bit more too.

The cliffs at Yesnaby are wild and parts of the landscape look like they have been transplanted from another world.

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Top of cliffs at Yesnaby

On the heath before the cliffs you can find the rare primula scotica. This is a tiny little plant and not easy to spot unless you know what you are looking for so it will probably be no surprise for me to tell you that Helen found them and once we had been shown them we were able to find more in that area.

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Primula Scotica at Yesnaby

Kirbuster farm museum is a fascinating place.  Part of the buildings date back to the 16th century and there are recognisable features from the styles of buildings at Skara Brae and the other neolithic sites that have clearly been continued through the ages such as the sleeping alcoves and built in wall niches.  This is also a free museum with very knowledgable and friendly guides – well worth a visit.

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16th Century aspect of Kirbuster Farmhouse

By a narrow margin I think my favourite part of that day was the visit to Happy Valley. This lovely place has very unusual gardens by Orkney standards that were planted by the former owner who was something of a recluse during his life. Luckily the building and gardens are being preserved and cared for by the Friends of Happy Valley group.  It is a beautiful place and has a magical atmosphere to it.  I wish we could have stayed there much longer but my need for certain facilities meant we had to move on as the house was locked up.

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Happy Valley Gardens

I think I will write a separate post about experiences with tombs, cairns and the Rennibister Earth House and bring this section of our Orkney experiences to a close.

All photos copyright Neil Pitchford, Awen photos.

Perennial Druidry: Waves through Grasses Moon

As readers will know this year I decided to start working with the Perennial Druid course materials hosted on the Druid Network website. Unit Seven in the Perennial Druidry course is called Field Poppy Moon by Bobcat.  Poppies though are not very evident in this area at all so this name does not seem to fit here.  What is most noticeable to me is the grasses. In our local park many of the grasses are now almost as tall as me, some taller, with spots of delicate white and yellow wildflowers and the darker greens and purples of tall, vibrant thistles.  As the breeze blows the grasses gently wave, the sounds and sights remind me of the sea.  To me therefore this is Waves through Grasses Moon.
I have found that this moon I have had little time to devote to the course.  Partly that’s due to the demands of home and family and partly other reading leading to inspiration for new prayers for both Brigantia and Maponus.
This unit talks about midsummer as a festival time and a season of waning summer.  I don’t do anything separate to the summer solstice in terms of ritual for midsummer although I do note its passing and I don’t really feel the pause that Bobcat talks about, my perception of this time of year is different.  This moon started on 27 June and ended on 26 July so I’m a touch late writing up my reflections but that’s life.  For me this period is a very busy one.  Here in Glasgow the children break up for summer around midsummer so this moon marked the first weeks of the summer holidays.  For me juggling part time work with family time, organising cover for when I’m at work, getting school uniforms ready for the next school year and looking after two children with different needs is both hectic and often tiring.  Luckily I do have great family support but it’s still tough.  My energies have often been drained with day to day life this moon with little left over.
As I have been going about though, my eyes have been drawn often to long wild grasses along road verges, in our local park and in fields left fallow.  I’ve also been enchanted by dancing damselflies and summer birds like swifts sweeping over the grasses. I have had moments of wonderful inspiration leading to new prayers.  I’ve been able to take moments where I could pause and connect with the life in our local park and in my garden.  My garden in particular has taken on a deeper role as a place of grounding and re-energising for me. A few minutes wandering around doing a spot of weeding or dead-heading roses of an evening has taken on an increasing importance at this busy time.  These things link into the themes of this unit of energy, life, stillness and strength in the course.
Yesterday I honoured my ancestors as is my practice at the dark moon.  Today I prepare to move forward into the next moon.

The Druid’s Vow

The Druid’s Vow is a common aspect of many British Druid rituals.  The words for those that are unfamiliar with them are:

We swear by peace and love to stand
Heart to heart, and hand in hand;
Mark! O Spirit, and hear us now,
Confirming this, our sacred vow.

In my experience of OBOD influenced rituals it is usually said three times with participants often holding hands.

The Druid’s Vow is one of those pieces of not quite doctrine that many British Druids seem to use without  really thinking deeply about what they are saying.  I’ve been guilty of doing that myself in the past.

The words of what is now known as the Druid’s Vow first appeared in 1956 in a Universal Bond ritual that took place on Tower Hill in London (Hutton, R. The Druids, p187).

I presume that as Ross Nichols was a member of the Universal Bond before he formed the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids that he adopted this verse into his Order’s rituals. I’m also assuming that when the OBOD distance programme was developed Philip Carr-Gomm naturally included this verse in the rituals that were presented to members.

Over the years I’ve witnessed a number of online discussions about the use of that verse.  There are many for whom using the words “we swear” and “sacred vow” are just not possible unless they are in a group where they know all present and really do feel able to swear to stand in peace and love with them. There are others who will use the words if they are among people they know but only meaning it for that brief moment.

I’ve used the words in the past without thinking about them.  At rituals in the last year or two I have mostly used them when I feel able to at least say that for that moment I stand in peace and love with those present.  I have also been at rituals in the last year where I have felt unable to use those words now that I think more about them and attempt to mean what I say.  There have been occasions that for personal reasons I have not felt very peaceful during the ritual that was taking place, others where there were so many people I didn’t know present that I felt unable to use the words and remained silent instead at that part of the ritual.

Today while doing the washing up (I find that’s a good time for thinking of other things) I suddenly realised that changing the word “swear” to “seek” would totally alter the meaning of that verse and make it more accessible for me and hopefully many others. And I’ll also be talking to plural spirits which is an alteration I have heard before.

From now on I think I’ll be using this version of the Druid’s Vow:

We seek by peace and love to stand
Heart to heart, and hand in hand;
Mark! O Spirits, and hear us now,
Confirming this, our sacred vow.
 

Working with the Perennial Druidry course – unit 5

I’ve written earlier about starting to work with the Perennial Druidry course.  In this post I am going to share my reflections on the unit I have been working with over the last moon.

I have been working on Unit 5 which is called White Lady moon by Bobcat but I don’t feel that really fits up here in Glasgow. The hawthorn is now blossoming but it’s not been out long, in fact checking my Facebook posts tells me I first saw blossoms round here on 11 May and that’s just a couple of days before the full moon. Up until that point one of the more noticeable sights locally was that the ash trees were on the cusp of coming into leaf. Now two weeks later some hawthorns here are covered in open blossom and many others are still in the process of coming into full blossom. There are now also leaves on the ash trees, the final bare trees are being dressed in green. I’ve thought about various options of names that fit more with what I see here over the past couple of weeks. Ash Wakening moon or Blossoming moon and a few other variants. Chatting with Neil about this I think he may have come up with a suitable name that combines both the hawthorn blossoming and the ash coming into leaf in a more poetic way than I came up with. This is White Ash moon. The hawthorn trees look like they have been covered in creamy white ash and the ash trees themselves are beginning to look more like living trees.

So what about the assorted headings in this unit?

The festival is Beltane. I have celebrated this in groups twice this year, once in late April and once in early May. In both cases the marker I need to feel that Beltane is really here was either not there at all or only present in a small number of early blossoms. Beltane for many is about sexuality and fertility but to me it’s slightly different.

Firstly to really feel Beltane is here I need to see the hawthorn flowering, I know I’m not alone in that but the meaning is slightly different to me that for others. The part that is probably in common with others feelings is that it marks the turning of the season into early summer. For me though is a symbol for me linking to my own modern mythological take on the journey of Rigantona to the Underworld and Her return. It is as She returns to the Land and walks on it that the hawthorn flowers begin to open, marking Her arrival. And it is now when the blossom is heading towards full strength that She takes the cup of sovereignty up once more and Her Sister/Mother rests and transforms from careworn age to youth. A dance that will be repeated each year with Rigantona passing the cup to Her Sister/Mother once more at Samhain. It is a dance of shared responsibility, of knowing when to be active and when to step back, when to grow and when to rest. That is something I am still learning about.

At the full moon when I made my offerings to the Ladies of the Land, I greeted Rigantona as returned from the Otherworld. I am not yet sure if I will do something outward to mark this time when to me She takes back Her cup of sovereignty or not. Possibly it is enough to have acknowledged it and spent this time contemplating what that means to me now.

I don’t really have any further thoughts on the season being summer waxing as Emma put it in the materials.
The element listed is fire. This is an odd one for me as I do not see fire as an element in the way that earth, waters and air can be. For me fire is something that transforms. It can be a symbol of divine energies but more so of change. I don’t really see it as a deity in itself although there is certainly a hungry energy to fire even in the smallest candle flame. It’s a dangerous energy, hungry and wild. As humans we use it for so many things thinking perhaps to tame it but that is something we can never do. There are deities that work with fire under control, the smith god Govannon and Brigantia with her links to fires of hearth, smithy and inspiration. Fire itself though is not a deity to me, perhaps because I don’t feel I can develop a relationship with it. All I can do is acknowledge its power and treat it with caution.

The perception heading in this unit is listening. I do a lot of listening. I need to listen to what is spoken and sometimes more importantly what is not spoken by my children. I don’t to it all the time of course, there are times I shut down a bit and hear but not listen or listen lightly and not as deeply as I can. I was chatting with Neil about this and he said that listening is an art, an interactive creative act. I’d never really thought about it that way before but he is right. Deep listening is interactive, it can change your thoughts on something. Listening leads you to respond in ways that can build up new understandings, creating new threads in relationships. I’ve not spent time this moon focusing on listening to anything in particular but it is something I do a great deal of anyway.

Emma asks in this section “What do we mean by the ‘song’ in Druidry?”. To me the song in Druidry is the harmonies created by each of us relation to one another and the world around us. It is a song that we can listen to with our ears to some extent but there is more to it. We also need to listen with our whole bodies and our souls to sense the song of druidry and our place within it.

I don’t have much to say on the areas of vibrance, passion, intimacy and sexuality other than to acknowledge that with Neil, I have found a new expression of the latter three in particular that has had a profound effect on my self image and a very positive one too.

The area of creativity tells us to find a muse, to be aware to who and what inspires us. At the moment I am inspired by druidry and the way in which Neil and I interact with each other and our own expressions of druidry.