Archive for the ‘Druidry’ Tag

31 Days of Lunasa: Day 9 — Temperance



The third card of my draw is Temperance from the major arcana. Here again Kat Black’s collage of medieval art has assembled a remarkable image. How is temperance winged? Not why, but how?

As the final element and resolution of the first two in a series, the third component of a triad is not merely a combination but a transformation. Analytically: thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Spiritually, something more. We are all much more than our components, being living conscious beings.

The Page of the second card has brought word to the seated figure of the Four of Coins, a representation of where I began, or where my consciousness was when I drew the cards. Already I’ve moved on, of course — we all do; we don’t sit still, though sometimes it can feel like it. What manifests as a result? A winged feminine figure. More than a third of the obligatory tarot booklet that deck creator Kat Black includes in the boxed set gives sources for the composite photoshopped images. The figure is initially a nun, and the wings come from another source. The addition is literal inspiration — the consequence of opening to an elemental energy for transformation, something we each do every day in one form or another (that’s how we live).

If the Four of Coins can release the materiality of his outlook — and he’s seated, pretty firmly entrenched in it, by all appearances — he can transform into his winged potential. Between Death and the Devil is Temperance. Moderation in all things, counsels the deck booklet, a common enough reading, very appropriate, too. A time to enjoy equilibrium. Flanked by death and the devil, two strongly transformational cards, temperance is an apex of seeming calm. The Page as middle card is the hinge, its gifts (as I noted in the previous post) youthful animal energy and change, transformation, travel.

Winged. So for a start at least, I pay attention to birds. We’ve let our small rural lot grow wilder this year, the berry-bushes spreading, the variety of birds greater, mosses heavy in the shaded areas, with all the rain of the past two months. (The eastern imbalance is too much water, with flooding and loss of property here to mirror the drought and fire of the western U.S.)

Birds heard, often, but with so much tree cover, less often seen. Listening, the counsel echos. Keep listening. What we hear so often precedes what are able to see.

Josephine McCarthy in her Magic of the North Gate observes:

Remember, your imagination is only an interface, it sends out signals that spirits can decipher and creates a window in your consciousness whereby the beings can interface with you (pg. 111).

I know I tend to think of imagination as “mine” rather than a shared space we offer — or we can offer — for connection and service. The care-taking I mentioned at the beginning of this 31-day series doubly applies to imagination. I know I have to attend to care-taking my consciousness. So many beings and forces these days want a piece of me. (We can easily locate and identify people who have agreed to be nibbled and snacked on by forces they’d never let in their front doors, if they shone the full light of their consciousness on them.) All the more reason a regular spiritual practice, whatever form ours may take, is essential for sanity and survival.

With all the talk about “freedom” these days, we frequently ignore our own spiritual freedom. Sometimes I’ve made fun of the state motto of bordering New Hampshire: “live free or die”. More accurately, it’s live free and live — it’s the only way we truly do live, as free spiritual beings.

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Welcome to Sudan, our newest visitor.

31 Days of Lunasa: Day 8 — Page of Wands



The second card of three, from Kat Black’s marvelous Golden Tarot. I don’t read frequently from this deck, but it always offers unexpected richness when I do.

The second in my three-card spread:

To the image of myself sitting outside the city walls (see yesterday’s post) comes the page on foot, three rabbits nearby on the road — the nearness of animal life. His staff is coming into leaf — a living staff. Behind him, fire. Youth, animal spirits, fire, travel or journeying, all coming to challenge the sitting figure to own his royal potential, his crown with three points — matching the three rabbits?

This is a useful prod — I’ve been feeling dis-spirited. To get re-spirited has become an increasingly clear quest I need to undertake — it will not (or not any longer) happen by itself.

What do I need to attend to? Fire, symbolic and literal. This fire festival season is an apt interval — all four of the Celtic festivals of Imbolc, Beltane, Lunasa and Samhain are fire festivals, after all.

The Lunasa meditation for Sunday in Matthews’ Celtic Devotional includes this self-clarification: “May the tides of change sweep away all that is outworn and strengthen whatever is eternal in my life” (pg. 110).

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Welcome to the newest visitors from Bolivia and Macedonia.

31 Days of Lunasa: Days 5 & 6 — Falter, Fallow, Follow



What do you do when you falter in a commitment?

Here’s Kris Hughes in his most recent book, writing about the goddess Cerridwen, and also about how we can meet halfway whatever it is that we aspire to. Rather than lamenting no post for yesterday, or beating myself up about it (no fun unless masochism inspires me), I can collect a number of really helpful pointers:

I cannot see Cerridwen physically–she does not possess a carbon-based physical body–so the manner by which I develop my relationship with her must somehow address these limitations. Nothing beats heading over to Bala for an afternoon spent at her lake, for there is a sense there that is different to anywhere else on earth–there is a tangibility to her presence in that location, as if the landscape holds a different kind of lyric. However, Bala is just over an hour from my home, and my schedule does not permit me the luxury of going there every day. Therefore I have re-created a sense of what I feel at Bala at home, and it is centred around my altar … (pgs. 264-5).

First, acknowledge limits — something still not fashionable these days, in spite of broad hints and clear evidence not just from the day’s headlines but all of human history. Often what I want to connect to doesn’t have a physical form, “so the manner by which I develop my relationship … must somehow address these limitations”. Nothing beats direct experience, the right location or doorway or person — “as if the landscape holds a different kind of lyric”. But working with my “howevers” may mean among other things re-creation of the remembered ideal in a new setting, and a focus helps immensely. In Kris’s case this re-creation is “centred around my altar”.

But we all do this already — we re-create in so many ways. No one starts from zero. The trick is to open the tap even incrementally — to increase the flow even a little. Commit to 31 days of blogging. Commit to a cat, another person, a goddess, a garden. The point, after all, may not be to get there, but to get here — more fully.

I cannot see what I desire, but let me marry earth with fire … Often a rhyme will launch me toward where I wish to go. Self-enchantment is a delightful skill. I happen to do it with words, but your preferred mode may be other: a walk, gardening, cooking, some other craft, martial arts, a relationship. The fire of the imagination, a south to the north of earth, balances the path to recovery, discovery.

I take the word “howevers” from earlier in this post and play with it: “who-verse”. In the world where I currently reside — or one I wish to (re)enter — what verse will take me to who I’m looking for? The “who” may be a version of me, the verse may be the song I can’t stop singing. So many pointers, so many paths. Or the “who” is a deity knocking, knocking to make herself heard over my human noise. Who cares if I don’t believe in a god? It’s enough some days that she believes in me.

You see, I know how much I talk myself into many experiences and states of being, unawares, or unintentionally. Like most of us, I’m (still) just starting to claim my power and trying do it a little more intentionally. This blog is my trail, my track, my spoor. It’s true that the more personal I get, the more universal I become. Up to a point. Sometimes, though, I just turn oracular, and have to wait until I can untangle what I wrote in order to interpret it to myself, let alone anybody else.

Sometimes you just need to show up, not bump into the furniture any more than you must, and grow whatever your equivalent is to a suitable Druid beard. In other words, stall for time. Make sh*t up. Because when you do, I’ve noticed, something always turns up. We accumulate momentum with even small efforts, and that carries us into the next moment. With any luck, singing — and no apologies to the naysayers, the donkeys braying. But even if not, there we can pick up the trail again, climbing to see what’s over the next hill, what the vistas reveal, how we may serve a greater vision than before.

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Welcome to the newest visitor from Ethiopia.

31 Days of Lunasa: Day 4 — the Patience of Guides



With Raven poking his bill into things, Boar shows up to remind me it’s been some time since we’ve run together.

You might think I’d be more mindful of a guide that stalked me for decades until I finally took notice, a guide notable for access to healing (who doesn’t need that from time to time?), and an all-around lively companion to take with me on walks and into meditations. I run my hand along her back (sometimes it’s him, this evening it’s her) — our preferred point of initial connection, and re-affirm the link that’s always there.

I observed here a few years ago:

Sometimes I can’t quite reach the inward space I need to inhabit for healing. But I can reach for my inner guide, through long familiarity, and touch the bristly fur on his back. Touch was one of my first experiences of my guide — totally unremarkable to me, when I was looking for something more dramatic — and less “mundane”, less physical. For whatever reason, I can readily feel his fur, his pleasure at our connection. Only later, as I note in the post linked in the previous paragraph, did I read in the Druid Animal Oracle the entry for Torc, the Boar: “… he is a representative of the Goddess — his skin can heal you” (Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, The Druid Animal Oracle, Fireside/Simon and Schuster, 1994, p. 39). And I began to appreciate this “earthed” mode of access for what it was, a priceless gift. Once again — you’d think I’d know this by now as one of my ongoing biases — I overlooked the obvious, minimized a non-flashy spiritual connection.

Long-time readers know I often try to convey the ups and downs of a spiritual journey, the human tricks and quirks of consciousness, the ironies and paradoxes and eddies of the life-current that sweeps us along. We are not permitted to linger, even with what is most intimate, Rilke reminds me. All right, Bard, I mutter. But what about returning?

Mara Freeman writes of the imagination needful for working with our own lives in her Grail Alchemy:

… the imagination is the language of the soul. It is the equivalent of our most important sensory organ — sight — only turned inward rather than outward. Every non-physical thing that exists expresses itself as energy, or Force.  The imagination is a creative mechanism that enables us to give Form to Forces of the non-physical planes. (Introduction, Kindle location 349).

I love that: imagination “enables us to give Form to Forces of the non-physical planes”. And no, it doesn’t have to be visual. Look at Boar, not choosing my default, strongest sense, but reaching me through touch instead.

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None of this, without the impetus to write these daily posts for a month. The struggle to re-establish a flow of writing, after long drought. The richness that starts to emerge, a droplet, a smallest trickle.

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Welcome to our newest visitor from Venezuela.

31 Days of Lunasa: Day 3 — Ravens



Part of the point of this series is to put in a period of steady writing. As a spiritual practice, it has much to recommend it. The commitment gets things into words that wouldn’t otherwise arrive there. And if you’re a Druid on top of that, you naturally get at least some things that are Druidic into words, too.

The theme I thought would jump-start me was berrying. But all day, nothing was stirring. I found myself avoiding this blog altogether. (Just day three and he’s dead in the water, mutters the inner censor.) Yes, I probably could have gone out to our half-wild blackberry bushes in the back yard, taken a picture, and found in that interaction at least my triggering subject. Poet Richard Hugo writes in his delightful 1979 book The Triggering Town:

A poem can be said to have two subjects, the initiating or triggering subject, which starts the poem or “causes” the poem to be written, and the real or generated subject, which the poem comes to say or mean, and which is generated or discovered in the poem during the writing. That’s not quite right because it suggests that the poet recognizes the real subject. The poet may not be aware of what the real subject is but only have some instinctive feeling that the poem is done.

Young poets find it difficult to free themselves from the initiating subject. The poet puts down the title: “Autumn Rain.” He finds two or three good lines about Autumn Rain. Then things start to break down. He cannot find anything more to say about Autumn Rain so he starts making up things, he strains, he goes abstract, he starts telling us the meaning of what he has already said. The mistake he is making, of course, is that he feels obligated to go on talking about Autumn Rain, because that, he feels, is the subject. Well, it isn’t the subject. You don’t know what the subject is, and the moment you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain start talking about something else. In fact, it’s a good idea to talk about something else before you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain.

As with so many human crafts and skills, each has much that wise observers learn they can transfer — or maybe transpose — to living a life. The equation isn’t always one-to-one. We’ve become accustomed in the last century to photographs. We point to an image of ourselves frozen on a a flat phone screen or hard-copy print-out and declare “that’s me” without thinking much about how strange such a statement is. I can be both “here” and “there”, in the same way that human beings in the Hebrew Bible are made in the “image of God”, both divine and not at all. The image both is and isn’t the same as the thing it images. The triggering subject often works similarly, pointing us beyond. I start a blogpost about berrying and I know at this point that the title and possibly some ghosts of ideas will linger in the draft folder on WordPress. That idea got me onto my blog. A starting point, a seed crystal. A prompt. But that’s not the current title.

My wife and I were sitting out back eating diner an hour ago when we heard a series of gronks emanating from the front yard. She hadn’t paid much attention to such calls before, though I know she’s heard them, and she couldn’t identify the creature making them. What IS that? she said. As the calls became more insistent, I knew that Raven was asking for my focus. One call probably wouldn’t have been enough to break through. But a series of them did. What made the conversation even more interesting and significant is that we’d just been talking about ravens, among the other birds that frequent our hilltop, including waxwings as they migrate north and south, bluebirds that occasionally nest here, and an assortment of woodpeckers.

As a bird with world-wide associations and symbolism, the Raven naturally lends itself to varied interpretation. While we needn’t discount such ready hints and clues, we don’t need to ascribe to them invariant significance either. Google “the name raven” and you’ll dredge a surprisingly muddled set of potential meanings and mis-meanings suitable for any bias. Your best friend means something quite different to you than to his parents, children, co-workers, the pedestrian he or she cut off in traffic, and so on. An actual being interacts with so many others, and picks up meanings and interpretations like carrion attracts flies. The simile is intentional — the Raven is a messenger or guide between realms in very many cultures, including the realm of the dead. But as Hamlet quips to his mother, “Tis not alone my inky cloak … that can denote me truly”. Meanings can be slippery things. Check it out before you check it in.

This particular raven was going about his own business. While simultaneity put us both in proximity and brought my wife and me to hear his cries, the raven doesn’t have to “mean something” to have profound significance. What did my conversation with my wife “mean” to him? Is he now divining in a book of Raven Wisdom to learn what his recent interaction with two humans meant? (Maybe he is!) We were brief interactions in a cosmos stuffed with them every instant. Wisdom can help us learn from our interactions.

For one thing, a raven close by could be a sign that the owl pair nesting up the hill from us hasn’t decimated the local bird population. For another, “Crows, ravens, magpies, and jays are not just feathered machines, rigidly programmed by their genetics. Instead, they are beings that, within the constraints of their molecular inheritance, make complex decisions and show every sign of enjoying a rich awareness”, notes the Wikipedia entry for common raven. My inclination, rooted in decades of practice, is to remain alert for future appearances, other coincidences, (dis)confirmation of speculations, and direct inquiry in meditation. Raven, what do you want to say to me?

Call this “Raven divination” if you want to. It’s also a form of creative play. The universe seems to play catch with meanings, tossing them towards us to see how many we’ll even notice, let alone return.

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31 Days of Lunasa: Day 2 — “The Country of Autumn”



As with the other “Great Eight” days of the Druid (and wider Pagan) calendar, I find the festivals are more whole seasons than individual days. While a full or new or dark moon is an obvious time-marker, for the rest of the month, time-keeping often isn’t exact. Our modern time sense that seems to require us to celebrate “on the day” can miss the larger energies of the season.

In this, I know I’ve been influenced by Caitlin Matthews and her Celtic Devotional, which also supplied the title for this post: “As you travel through the country of Autumn, relate your spiritual journey to the rich gifts available at this time” (pg. 97).

Of course, early August isn’t autumn yet in many ways. It’s still “high summer” with days of heat and languor and vacation for children and teachers before school resumes. But this country of a season, with its borders and boundaries different from its interior or far realms, still announces autumn with its first harvests, its shortening daylight hours, its subtly altered and shifting rhythms.

My go-to magical tree, our front-yard guardian Rowan, already has reddening berries, though the overcast sky dulls their hues. And as if to announce the season, I recently received from New Hampshire Druid friends a lovely personalized gift of a leather offering-pouch, crafted by AODA archdruid Dana Driscoll, featuring “my” Rowan in full red-berry mode. The Rowan dons its spring-in-autumn guise, having something to say in all its seasons, whether or not I’m listening.

Relate your spiritual journey to the gifts of the season. Wise counsel. I find as I age I need to resist a tendency to veer off on curmudgeonly tangents, defaulting to wry cynicism. The gifts of the season ARE my spiritual journey, and vice versa. A friend on an Old English site I moderate posted an excerpt from the Old English Herbarium on betony, which advises us to harvest it in August: þus þu hi niman scealt on Agustes monþe butan iserne “thus thou shalt take (or harvest) it in the month of August without iron”. Magical instruction, to forgo that metal hateful to the realms of otherkin? No knives, in other words. Harvest by hand.

You can usually wring both instruction and a laugh from the old herbals. The London herbalist John Gerard noted in 1597 that betony “maketh a man to pisse well” — a diuretic, if you need one. But the Herbarium is more to the point, suggesting different preparations for a range of ailments and maladies: Wiþ egene dymnesse genim þære ylcan wyrte … “against the dimness of the eyes, take that same herb …” How has my vision dimmed, or what afflicts my sight? Culpeper’s The English Physician, later named the Complete Herbal, ascribes substantial powers to the herb: “it preserves the liver and bodies of men from the danger of epidemical diseases, and from witchcraft also” and “this is a precious herb, well worth keeping in your house”. I’m not looking to betony for a physical panacea, but the spirit of betony may well be a potent ally to explore. Use your powers of discrimination, my guides whisper to me.

Yesterday, water: the image of the waterfall. Today, vision, across the elemental circle, from west to east, and air, intellectual activity and acuity. Is tomorrow north, or should I be particularly attentive to images of earth, the body, groundedness? Or let them come of themselves, if they will.

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31 Days of Lu(gh)nasa(dh): Care-taking



Blessed Lughnasadh to you! And a Blessed Imbolc to you in the South! This post begins a 30-day series for August 2021.

A theme that came to me in meditation this morning is caretaking. We ask others we cherish to “take care”. And these days, to take care of themselves. If you’re like me, you tend to think of taking care as a kind of opposite of passionate engagement. You take care when things, including yourself, need tending, need slowing down and nurturing. Caretaking becomes a form of caution.

The god Lugh for whom Lughnasadh is named has always manifested to me as a figure of passionate engagement. He’s given the epithet samildanach in Irish — equally skilled (in many things) — for a reason. Not much room for caution, when I consider the god. He throws himself into experience because that’s how you harvest it for what it offers. His caretaking is involvement, is testing himself against others — against the spiritual status quo?

When I don’t connect with one deity among a pantheon, it’s helpful to look at another. Longtime readers here know I’m not really polytheist so much as animist. The whole cosmos is talking, and different voices find me at different times. I’ve noted in previous posts how the hemispheres teach us to look at what’s happening across the world. As the north arrives at Lunasa, to give the more modern spelling, the south greets Brighid at Imbolc, as winter begins to yield to spring. The Lunasa harvest feeds awakening earth, awakening consciousness of Imbolc. What do my harvests feed? What do the fruits of my words, thoughts, deeds and feelings earn me and nourish in me? What awakens as a consequence? Where has my life shaped me to become more samildanach, more equally skilled, much as I may resist it at the time?

I include this image of the Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park in western New York because it’s my childhood spiritual home. A friend just took this shot on 26 July. A 20-minute bike ride from my father’s farm used to bring me to one of the park entrances, and another few minutes would bring me to this cascade. I’m a Druid today in part because I was blessed with such beauty in my youth.

Waterfalls signal abundance for me. The excess, the vast volume of water over a large falls like this one, reminds me how much happens every moment beyond my little circle of awareness. One of the benefits of ritual observance is its enlarging quality. We’re lifted, even if only briefly and momentarily, into larger worlds.

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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

Tagged with ,

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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Five for May


When I lived and worked in Japan in the 90s, I became familiar with a major Japanese holiday period called Ōgon Shūkan or Golden Week. It’s actually a cluster of holidays from late April through the first week in May, and a popular time for travel. Many people have paid leave, and many companies shut down completely as employees depart.

Here in Vermont the pollen has been so heavy that this last week of unusually warm weather has felt like our own Golden Week. Our car lay under a dusting of it this morning.

Pollen on our car windshield and hood this a.m.

What’s your earth doing locally? How do you already find yourself celebrating it, honoring it, living in it? How can you extend that, personalize it, make it more conscious?

2 — 750

A month ago I recently posted for the 750th time here at A Druid Way. The month-long interlude between then and now has been a break I needed. Not sure I can sustain this blog to 1000 posts, but there’s a completeness in such a goal far beyond anything I envisioned when I launched this blog a decade ago. Your comments and encouragement continue to matter!

3 — A REVIEW in the WORKS

Start work on one review, I find, and other books arrive, looking for their turn.

I’m working on a review of Paul Cudby’s The Shaken Path: A Christian Priest’s Exploration of Modern Pagan Belief and Practice, published in 2017 and still worth reflecting on. Balanced, thoughtful — a good model for future writers, and a book to hand Christian friends and family.

And just today New World Witchery (Llewellyn, 2021) materialized in the mail, a response to a summons as magical as any a mage performs. The thick, juicy volume now sits on my desk, richly beguiling.

Thumb ready to open the book!

4 — DEALING with our “What About’s?”

Often new Druids are beset with questions. The wide world! Here, the meadows open, glorious with leafing things, beasts gazing just beyond the rise, and birds calling. Or there, the forest path beckons, a mysterious fresh scent drawing you on. Or on the other side, wilderness, desert, or seashore. Each one calls with a yearning that matches our own.

Recently on a Druid forum I offered what I’ve learned over time, that’s become a kind of five-point Druid mantra for me. First, go with what works. Second, experiment as you are guided. Third, learn from every source that runs away slower than you can follow. Fourth, tune to the Awen. Fifth, trust that love will guide you from star to star.


Because we’re about three weeks after Beltane, its energies swirling around us, and a month out from Solstice. Always each holy day rouses me from whatever I’ve been doing and says “Pay attention!”

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Posted 20 May 2021 by adruidway in awen, Beltane, blogging, book review, Druidry

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Flames of Bealtaine

Search “Beltane” and “Bealtaine”, and one of the top results to come back is “How is Beltane celebrated?” People want to know the how, the available elements for crafting a meaningful life from any source that won’t run away.

One source that modern Druidry has adopted is working with the four seasonal festivals of the ancient Celts — Imbolc, Beltane, Lunasa and Samhain. Each carries fire symbolism. But more than the symbol is the thing itself. Fire is an intermediary — a palpable physical thing, it’s both animate and insubstantial — a beautiful representation of the cosmos at its most alive and mysterious. Gather with friends around a fire and you participate in a human action tens of thousands of years old. In these challenging times, mirroring our ancestors’ experiences through the centuries, a fire says “we’re still here”.

Much of our human experience consists of defining our spaces and places, and the awareness we bring to them. At its heart, Druidry is a kind of continual prayer: O let me wake into the holy in every moment.

This is sacred time, go the words of standard OBOD ritual. This is sacred space. We name it to remind ourselves, yes — to evoke it through intention and attention — but also to recognize what’s already there. We can create sacred space because sacred space has shaped us from birth. It’s our heritage, our birthright, unless we give it away.

So we call it back.

“One of the most common responses I see to the idea of developing a daily practice”, Teo Bishop writes, “is that there is no time. This assumes that a practice must be a long, complicated ritual, full of gestures and ritual phrases. It paints a practice as yet another way that the struggle of our day to day life is a weight on our shoulders.

But the daily practice can be framed another way.

Let it begin with something small. Light a candle, take one, deep breath, then extinguish the flame.

That’s all.

It won’t take but a second”.

Bishop wrote the blogpost I quote above for the autumn equinox. But fire is good for any time. As mage and author Josephine McCarthy describes it,

My deepest personal experience of that is with the lighting and tuning of the candle flame. The intent to light a candle to prepare the space for a ritual act developed from that simple stance, to an act of bringing into physical manifestation an elemental expression that lights through all worlds and all times: it becomes the light of divinity within everything (J. McCarthy. Magical Knowledge, pg. 70).

As a focus for meditation, for out-of-body work, for reverence, for kindling the spirit in times of heaviness and despair, fire has no equal.

It’s very old, this focus on fire. (“Focus” itself is an old word for “hearth” or “altar”. We make an altar of what we focus on). We read in the Rig-Veda 1.26.8, “For when the gods have a good fire, they bring us what we wish for. Let us pray with a good fire”.

One way to understand this passage, of course, says simply that “if we build it, they will come”. On occasion that’s exactly right. Dedication is its own reward. Often, though, the arrival of gods lies in our building — the impulse to light the fire, the desire for kindling light and flame, is itself divine presence. We manifest the divine, or banish it, by choice, by our actions in each moment. Magicians, every one of us.

We tend, under the influence of credal religions and orthodox examples where belief is central, to feel that if we don’t “believe” in something, then it doesn’t exist. We create our reality, the zeitgeist tells us. And that’s beautifully and abundantly true in ways that deserve our respect and exploration — as long as we remember others are creating their realities, too. In these times of covid, we’re reminded forcefully of the consensus reality we all play a part in creating, one where other things and people have existence and significance — and impact our lives — whether or not we “believe” in them.

Fire is even more important then, as a witness. No matter the dark, life and light also exist and have their say. One thing becomes another, in the Mother, in the Mother. Fire can assist us with that transition — can help bring it about.

We need the sacrament of fire.

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