Archive for June 2021

Hail! — Part 2

[Part 1 | Part 2 ]

Woodenbreath makes a valuable point in his recent comment: “Why I didn’t write anything down, was because I’ve been caught in a deep feeling, like a meditation”. Me too. That in fact was my first experience, a signal that alerted me to things in words that became part of this two-part reflection.

You’ll obviously experience the video in Part 1 in different ways, depending on your previous life experience — and that itself is a valuable guide and reminder. In so much of human experience, “There’s no OSFA” — no ‘one size fits all’. Half of living is finding out and learning how — and how much — we need to adapt what we encounter to our own lives and circumstances. And another third is learning who to ignore and who to listen to for guidance. ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’, said the wise Galilean, who might be expected to know what he was talking about. I’ve never encountered the sacred in the abstract, only in forms I can recognize, accept, work with. If it exists, it’s probably already embodied in my life.

rhododendrons, front lawn

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Here are some of my notes and responses to the video in part 1. No real order here, because.

A single voice begins the music.

Sometimes I sing alone because I am alone. But mysteriously, the sound of a solitary so often echoes and resounds and draws others. In a paradox of the sacred, the more inward-focused I am, at times, the stronger the outward call I make to others who resonate with me. Others join the solo voice in community. Sometimes I hear those already singing with me, if I listen. And they may not always be human. If we’re Druids, the chances rise to very high that many of the voices will be other-kin.

The elements

Air, and song, inspiration. The pauses, silences and rhythms that make up music, especially music of the voice. The drone in the background, the awen always singing to us. The earth beneath the feet of the pilgrim walking, the stones she caresses so intimately, the body itself, in postures of reverence. Water, the surf against the shore, the springs and rivers, the hand dipping into the water, the mist. Fire, the human spirit, the sun glimpsed through the mist at the end, the red of the scarf or shawl on the pilgrim’s shoulders that wants to carry symbolic weight, if we let it. Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath and fire my spirit. The old chant still, deep in us.


An ancient practice, most apt and fit for our practice today. Many of us have a favorite walk. Pilgrimage. An annual or every-decade reunion. Pilgrimage. A daily practice. Pilgrimage. Coffee or tea each morning or afternoon or evening at a longed-for hour. A small pilgrimage of calm and centering.


I loved the physical intimacy of touch in this video. Again and again the imagery is of grounding. Literal groundedness, feet touching the earth. Seeking out grounding, touching the stones. Bowing before the holy to touch the earth. Groundedness in chant and devotion and song. Groundedness in color, in taking in all the hues of our worlds. Acknowledgement of our own bodies, made of heavy, earthed substance.


We’re beings that can perceive color, so it’s little surprise that colors evoke so much for us. How can we use color as part of sacramental experience? Many churches deploy color and changes of color as part of their liturgical year. Some Druids do the same.

A holy mountain

Every culture has one or more. “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help”, goes a prayer from the Jewish Bible. A good contemplation seed. In form, the holy mountain is often a kind of altar. Most of us have one of those, concealed as something else. A corner of the nightstand, or of the desk, part or all of a shelf, a cupboard, a backyard statue or rock or stone circle. If I don’t have one, and I feel the call to start one, it’s easy to begin right now.


Children know this practice instinctively, as soon as school is done or summer starts, as soon as the car door opens at the beach or grassy park. Only connect, writes E . M. Forster. The pilgrim in the video walks barefoot.

Earth’s crammed with heaven,/ And every common bush afire with God,/ But only he who sees takes off his shoes … Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Another contemplation seed. Or reverse a truth to test it, stretch it: Only those who take off their shoes may see


The praying hands of the vocalist partway through. The postures and gestures we make all our days. The prostration before the boulder. The raised arms to the air, the sun, the bird. The arms outstretched at the closing.

Altars and the Bardic Arts

What altar do I currently worship at? (Everybody has at least one.) Can I discern its shape? Do I worship there consciously or unconsciously? Is this a good altar for me? The bard has words, voice, chant, song, music, inspiration to explore other altars, to feel their shape, sample and savour them. The shape of the altar is the shape of your own consciousness, says one of the Wise. The bards carry us with them on their journeys, so that we may choose, if we wish, to begin to explore on our own.

Veil, clothing, fog

What do I veil, and how? What was veiled that has now become clearer to me? Which veils do I respect, and which do I need to part and pass through?

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Posted 30 June 2021 by adruidway in Druidry, spiritual practice

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Hail! — Part 1

[Part 1 | Part 2 ]

First, music and image. On June 21, the Irish group Rainbow Starlight released the ‘Hail Mary’ in Irish, set to new music.

Before you bother with anything that I have to say about this video, make a gift to yourself and write down your own reactions, thoughts, experiences. Listen a second or third time. (And obviously if you’ve experienced negative things surrounding Christianity, and this prayer to the Mother in a Christian guise remains inaccessible to you, claim your own wisdom by all means, and go do something else that heals and helps.)

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I’m writing about this because words are a way I’ve used all my life to manifest what is speaking to me. And this video feels to me, among all the other things it is and can be, one example of a way forward, of manifesting the solstice blessings we’ve received, even of making ourselves aware of them in the first place, which is often the first needful step in manifestation. The video, in other words, suggests a practice.

But it’s all in Irish! Yes it is. I don’t know Irish, beyond a few words. I know enough to recognize a text as Irish, and I know how the language works linguistically as one of the six surviving Celtic tongues. Like many, I respond to its beauty as a vehicle for song. Traditional Irish music, prominently featuring many women as vocalists, can carry a current often missing in much of the contemporary musical scene. For lack of a better word, we can name that current the mystical, the introspective, the inward-facing. Though that isn’t exactly right, either. In this song, a profoundly Druidic meditation, we can experience it directly, as it opens into an engagement with a landscape.

After you’ve gotten down in writing — a whole practice in itself — your thoughts, experiences, insights, etc, consider how the video points toward a practice.

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If you opted not to write down your experience with the video, ask yourself why. Then at least write down your answer, and return to it to ponder it more than once.

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Sé do bheatha, a Mhuire,
atá lán de ghrásta,
Tá an Tiarna leat.
Is beannaithe thú idir mná,
Agus is beannaithe toradh do bhroinne; Íosa.
A Naomh-Mhuire,
a Mháthair Dé,
guigh orainn na peacaigh,
anois, agus ar uair ár mbáis.


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With my breath, with the tide beating on my shores, let me begin.

More in Part 2.

Solstice glow, “if our lake be still”

Still basking in Solstice glow, or want to be? You can find several hours of programming on Youtube from the recent OBOD Solstice celebration (links to separate videos follow), including the ritual itself, as well as talks by Ronald Hutton on “Sacred Waters” (around the 29:00 mark), John Matthews on “Druids and Fairies?“, Penny Billington on “Sacred Landscapes“, and the Eisteddfod (performing arts) portion. Eimear Burke, Chosen Chief of the order, opens the event (4:00 mark), then introduces Damh the Bard (7:00 mark) who as the Order’s Pendragon briefly describes what the typical in-person event feels like in Glastonbury, and reveals the Order’s sword:

Behold this, our Order’s sword, drawn from the lake of still meditation and returned to it again, ever sharp and ever with us, if our lake be still.

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One of the profound bardic gifts is the discovery (accessible to anyone, more perceptible with some training) that what we first imagine, or encounter in the form of image or metaphor, can take on full reality in the other worlds. (It may manifest here as well, in poems, songs, crafts, groves, meditations, changed lives.) Are we creating it, or did it always exist, waiting to be realized? An important question, one to be answered individually through repeated experience with different worlds and their energies and realities. But even more vital is the effect on us of such experiences. They link us to what humans have always experienced, as Hutton’s and Matthews’ and Billington’s talks attest in their own ways.

The efforts and experiences of others across time pool with our own. Sometimes the solitary Druid may experience this sense of connection more vividly than the member of an active grove. The Sword is ever sharp and ever with us, if our lake be still.

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You can hear an interview on the most recent episode (# 171) of Druidcast with Dana O’Driscoll, author of Sacred Actions which I recently reviewed here. In the interview Dana talks with the same grounded, practical, wise insight her book offers and which has won her devoted blog readers at The Druid’s Garden. (The interview begins around the 10:50 mark.)

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Welcome to our newest visitor from Cuba!

Solstice — The Standing Sun

Whether North or South, Summer or Winter, the path the sun takes from the earth’s perspective stays virtually unchanged for some days on either side of the Solstice. Solstice is literally “standing sun”.

Each summer we witness the sun rising higher each day, reaching its highest point at the summer solstice and dropping to its lowest in the winter. For these Solstice days, then, we can rest and take shelter in one of the still points of the year. We can quite rightly speak of a solstice season. Even from the vantage point of three or four days on either side of a solstice, any change in the sun’s path is still difficult to detect without sophisticated instruments.

Dawn and twilight can be good times to listen deeply and draw in this energy. If it’s overcast where you are, or too hot today, there’s tomorrow or the next day. These liminal intervals, these times of transition, offer us both metaphorical and literal pauses in the flow. The Still Point of Solstice is more properly a wider swath of stillness laid down twice a year.

Marvelous things emerge from Solstice stillness!

Devil’s Paintbrush, Solstice 2021

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Mid-Year Solstice 2021

Blessed Solstice! I was searching for a term for the solstices that would include what the sun is up to in both North and South, and “Mid-Year” and “End-Year” make do until I find better ones.

This Farmer’s Almanac pic helps — one of the clearer and more informative diagrams I’ve encountered:

I’ve written several posts on the Solstice, just about evenly distributed between winter and summer, and assembled links to a few of them below:

Nine Days of Solstice

Solstices Before Us

Gifts of Solstice (a 3-parter)

Solstice Season 2020

13 Gift-flames for Solstice Solitaries

May you find the warmth and illumination you need burning in your heart.

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Review of Dana O’Driscoll’s Sacred Actions

Dana O’Driscoll’s new book Sacred Actions (Atglen, PA: Redfeather, 2021) offers its own best “short take” in its apt subtitle: “Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Sustainable Practices”.

[You can hear an interview with Dana on Druidcast episode 171, beginning around the 10:50 mark.]

Even if you’re not familiar with O’Driscoll’s wonderful blog, you’ll quickly recognize that this is an earned book. The author has lived everything she writes about (with her blog as a practicum for those wanting more), the book is rich in anecdote, and in turn that means you can test and try out everything and adapt it to your own life and circumstances. Here there’s no fluff or filler — the feel of the book is workshop — you want to get your hands dirty doing at least some of these things right now. Yesterday we picked strawberries at our local CSA (still massaging our backs this morning), and we enjoyed the first fruits of the season knowing how they grew, and who planted them, half a dozen miles from where we live. Eating strawberry shortcake: sacred action!

Druidry and Pagan practice more widely take many forms — that is one of their strengths. At the core of these life-ways, however, is a practice. While it’s possible to be an armchair Pagan or Druid, sacred action characterizes Druidry and Paganism at their best and most alive. Action, practice, doing all draw us into fuller life with the earth, air and water all around us. (We supply the fire, or not, through our choices.)

A poem I read years ago that I can’t track down now has as its last line “what it is you spent your life loving”. O’Driscoll’s book sends ripples of dissatisfaction through me — in a good way, because you journey with the author asking yourself that question and examining the effects of your answers all around you. The very good news is how many of these sacred actions are things I can begin today. Alternative ways to compost, to approach garden layout, to engage with the community, they’re here, along with so much else: ritual, recipe, reflection. But more significantly, this is a book that helps you find places for other how-to’s you’ve amassed by providing a view from the Tower, from the treetops, from the mountain. I keep being struck at how comprehensive the vision of the book is. O’Driscoll’s reach and grasp, appropriate to the Archdruid of AODA, are wide.

We’re a few days out from summer solstice (winter for folks down under) — both very apt times to think about food, its scarcity and abundance. O’Driscoll’s chapter 5 is “Summer Solstice: Food and Nourishment”. The middle class in the West has grown so accustomed to “what I want when I want it” that we’ve often lost touch with the seasonal cycles, and how mindfully the abundance of one season can be stored, preserved and cherished to feed us through other seasons. It’s a deep satisfaction to eat the ample summer and especially autumnal foods of pumpkins, squash, potatoes, and nuts through the winter, their nutrient riches beautifully aligning with our hunger for calories against the cold. That this is also spiritual act matters just as much. Home preservation of foods, an art within living memory of our parents and grandparents, if not a part of our own lives, is a particular skill that we can revive and benefit from, when foods are abundant, and store against times of scarcity.

One of O’Driscoll’s signal achievements in this book is to remind us practically and repeatedly and inspiringly how we already embody the sacred in what we do each day. We are called and re-called to our sacred human task of mediation. The opening paragraph of the Introduction is a declaration:

Every human being has an innate understanding of the sacred: it’s that feeling of reverence that we get when we enter an old-growth forest, it’s the wonder we feel when viewing a fresh snowfall, and it’s the magic of the amazing Milky Way in the night sky. And those of us drawn to Earth-based and pagan paths are drawn to building and establishing that sacred connection. Our sense of the sacred emerges through interaction between ourselves and our surroundings. It is through the combining of human reverence and thoughtful action with the outer energies of the land that the sacred is awakened. Another way we might think about the sacred is that it occurs when humans are living in harmony and balance with the living Earth, rather than living removed from it (pg. 12).

The sacred is what we do, as well as what we invite and welcome, throughout our lives. How much is up to us.

O’Driscoll’s first chapter launches us with “The Winter Solstice: The Ethics of Care”. In an earth-centered book, we might find that an odd season to begin. Why not with spring, or Samhain / Samhuinne, the traditional Celtic end of the old year and start of the new? North or south, solstice feels like an extreme — and that is the part of its character O’Driscoll wants to engage:

We begin our journey at the darkest point of the year … at the point when the light returned to the world, we are hoping, working, praying, believing, and enacting a better tomorrow. This is the energy of the winter solstice: the time when at the moment of utmost darkness, the light glimmers with the promise to return. The light of our sacred action is what I call the ethics of care … Most of today’s problems are rooted in a lack of care, compassion and connection for ourselves, for others and for the living Earth and all of her inhabitants (pg. 27).

With a wise spiritual diagnosis in hand, doors open. I can work in the smallest parts of my life, knowing I needn’t wait for the Powers That Be to “do something”. O’Driscoll notes, “When doing any work in the community, I have found it to be very forthcoming about where you are in your own lifestyle shifts. I talk about my struggles at various points with areas I am still working to change” (pg. 194). Or one of the Wise observes, “To volunteer from a position of strength is not to know what holiness is all about”.

O’Driscoll’s conclusion follows from the rest of the book: “we need people to do what they can, using the best aspects of their own contexts to make it happen” (pg. 232). “The important thing is starting the journey and making the decision to walk it each day”.

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