Archive for the ‘ritual’ Tag


“True voyage is return” — U. K. LeGuin

After a year away, I’m back with material I hope you’ll continue to find of value. Thank-yous to you who’ve supported this blog, returning to read from over a decade of posts, commenting, encouraging, and recommending articles at A Druid Way to others.

Here we are at another time of festival and holiday, which it pays to remember is ‘holy day’, one set apart from mundane time. The English words holy, Old English halig, and hallow, Old English halga, ‘holy one, saint’ also form a verb halgian, to hallow or make sacred. Hallow evening or Hallowe’en, or All Hallows’ Eve, OE Ealra Halgena Æfen, is in many traditions the first of three days, continuing with All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 and concluding on All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2. Together the days of the period make up Allhallowtide, a holy time.

It’s a great word we could easily bring back to wider use in contemporary life. What are your hallowtides? If you’re observing Samhain or Halloween alone or with a small group, it’s a great theme for meditation, or a ritual question to ask and answer aloud or silently.

On Friday I drove with a friend to one of Mystic River Grove’s celebrations of Samhain. The crisp air, the almost windless evening, let us feast outdoors before ritual, and the sacred fire warmed us as temps dropped to freezing. “All you who have gone before, please listen now, we are listening too” we sang as we processed into the circle. Third of the ancient Celtic harvest festivals, Samhain is truly ‘summer’s end’, as we turn inward to winter. And as with all things, balance persists, whether we discern it or not: the Southern Hemisphere is cherishing Beltane and its celebration of growing heat and light. This is one of the great challenges of our time, especially as Druids: to find the balance, the hinge point or still center around which events and passions swirl.

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Third and Fourth Days of Samhain: Spirals and Soundings


Many years ago now, I participated in an online discussion group that included members of multiple faiths. It wasn’t always a comfortable space, nor did it need to be. We were there for engagement, but not necessarily ease. I recall a sharp criticism of Pagan perspectives on cycles and circles: that a circle is ultimately a cage, a trap, with no escape, and that only a faith that provided an out could offer anything like freedom.

It’s a distinctive view of salvation, or liberation, particularly as a faith rather than a practice. The discussion at the time was also particularly focused on one version of the Goddess as a kind of stand-in for all Pagan belief — a limited perspective the critic brought with him. That is, the (or a) Goddess as immanent, a part of the world, suffering along with mortals, influenced by human actions and wounded by human deeds stemming from ignorance. How, asked the critic, could such a figure ever meet our human hunger for transcendence?

It’s an interesting idea to unpack and explore, rather than simply reacting to. Most traditions have a round of observances, festivals, holidays, and don’t seem to feel bound or constrained by them. I haven’t found Druid practices any different. It’s the combination of the familiar and the new that keeps ritual observances fresh. For that reason, though the circle is a powerful symbol, and a kind of default shape for in-person Druid and other Pagan ritual, the underlying sense I perceive, and another widespread Pagan image, is the spiral. The circle is its two-dimensional version. Energetic movement or potential for movement curls in the spiral, a coil or spring or serpent power. It’s the source of rebirth, regeneration, that ritual glimpses and evokes and embodies. “True voyage is return” indeed, as long as we realize that “everything She touches changes”.

Newgrange entrance. Photo courtesy Spud Murphy/Wikipedia

As a meditation object, a “Samhain mandala”, the spiral is potent. Drawing it, tracing or painting it on the body, can work as well for Beltane, for the energies spiraling into summer that are manifesting in whorls and curls of plant tendrils, of the burgeoning natural world, of seashells and spiral galaxies, of the long spiral of death and rebirth. Enter the underworld at Samhain and re-emerge at Beltane every year, practicing the pattern we live, of dying and being reborn. The festivals mirror and echo off each other across the calendar, across the hemispheres. What have I been born from? asks my Beltane self. What am I building right now as I near Samhain that will emerge in the early summer?

Samhain for me is a well. Maybe a well that opens onto the Otherworld, if I choose to dive in. Or sometimes a sea, endless, restless, caressing or lashing our mortal shores. I attempt to sound it, to measure its depth or outlines, to communicate by way of the thin line of attention or ritual or meditation, a line disappearing into the depths toward that which needs to speak with me. I don’t need to worry about missing it: what I do not heed consciously will work its way to the surface regardless.

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If there’s one thing I know about the ancestors, it’s that they will be heard. Death has not so enfeebled them that they can only speak one time each year, or only with my attention and respect. Rather, my attention and respect are gifts I can offer, so that ancestral patterns, goals, wisdom can emerge within my circle of intention: I can meet in a circle with my ancestors, as with a spiritual council, and know what is afoot, and whether it aligns with what I am doing now. Not all their long-term projects deserve my assent or participation.

And I also bring assets to the council: present understandings, a body and set of experiences derived from being alive now, with links to the future and my own capacities as ancestor-in-training. For this reason, a mirror is one of my Samhain sacred tools: the face of my ancestors is also mine. I reflect a part of what they accomplished, what survives in this world, what may rest in the earth as a potential for them to manifest, should they return to bodies within this particular ancestral line.

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Second Day of Samhain: Nesting


Our ranch house is small enough to heat easily, but it does sometimes leave us tight for space. Ever since we moved here I’ve made my office in our front entryway, a 7-foot by 6-foot space, with small windows facing north, west and south. It’s cold in winter, but bright enough: even on the most overcast days I can write and read without a lamp. As I started to write this morning, I heard a rustling of birds in the nest above the south-facing door. It’s sheltered by the house to the east, and my entryway-office to the north, and almost every year I hear the peeping of the year’s crop of nestlings. In another hour the sun will hit the nest directly. Some birds still sun themselves there, even now in late October.

Samhain is the start of another kind of nesting season. Beltane is of course a nesting time in more literal ways: birds raising families, and soon enough kicking them out of the nest to get them flying. We nest at Samhain and turn earthy, drowsing, seeking warmth, comfort, richer foods to keep the cold at bay. At Beltane we celebrate the fire in us, and we can do the same at Samhain, especially if we seek more inwardly for the flame. Samhain and Beltane fires differ — you know this in your skin if you’ve observed both holidays in some way more than in your head.

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The other path I follow celebrates its new year this weekend, and enters a year of creativity, one in a twelve-year cycle of named years. A year tuned to creativity: we need it, to work through the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

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I like Susan’s recent comment: “does our breath with intent to our ancestors give breath to them … hmmm I would like to think so.” I try it out — breathing as a way to connect with those who breathed before me, those whose bodies enabled this body, who made it so it could breathe. One communal shared breathing, the same air: beloved ancestors and I, one large set of lungs among us. We keep the breath going, the ancestral lines, the lines of inspiration, taking in what’s handed down to us, and breathing it into new life and possibility. I breathe with intention as I light my tea light, as our local sunset arrives, and send off this post.

makeshift fire altar

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First Day of Samhain: Cardinals


The stuff of my day
can light me a way

I find myself in a rhyming mode today, and over time I’ve learned to work with it when it comes, because it can often give me light touches and entries and approaches to things that can otherwise be heavy or obscure, or present no handles, no entrance or doorway at all.

On this first Day of Samhain, I’ve lit a small fire in our woodstove. This Saturday’s sunny, but that autumnal nip in the air is real, and the dampness of early morning fog crept into the house. My wife and I were outdoors early and suddenly we were noticing cardinals. Maybe because many of the leaves are already off the trees, we speculated. Maybe it’s easier to spot them. The bright birds match some of the leaves as they darted in and around the trees. Depending on the weather, sometimes they’ll winter over here.

Beltane moon, Samhain moon …

As with dream work, so with blogging: first I have to get words down, a tentative, preliminary, approximate account. If I’ve left off dream study for a while, the direct links between dream and waking consciousness can take some work to revive. (Indirect links never leave us — they filter into reverie, whim, daydream, flashes of intuition and inspiration.) For me, the music of a line or two of verse can help. Other times, reading past dream entries can spark a new dream. I take these into sleep and recall improves, coming sometimes over several days, and slowly, or all at once.

I titled this post “cardinals,” but that’s really a placeholder. The birds aren’t thinking in human words, and “cardinal” evokes the color, which is often more useful than the word itself for many of my purposes. Let me bathe in cardinal red. Words as stepping stones out of our hyper-verbal culture — words simply as light touches, into something other.

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Tonight at dusk I’ll set a match to a tea-light and daydream with it. Scrying with flame? Sure. Drawing a tarot card? Possibly. Maybe literally trying my hand at drawing a tarot-like image. Just being alive is itself a kind of divination. Samhain flame links me to a thousand generations. I take air into my lungs, I let it go. O mortal thing, whispers everything else around me, mortal thing, are you listening?

Prelude: Nine Days of Samhain (Beltane) 2021


Both fire festivals, so fire can feature prominently in both, if you choose.

Nine Days of Beltane? What’s that? Well, go ahead — create it, if only for yourself! Noon for Beltane, dusk for Samhain. Or some other time that fits you and your season.

Often I try to model these things here on this blog, because so much of Druidry is in the doing. I’ll be starting my own Nine Days tomorrow, Saturday — 23-24-25-26-27-28-29-30-31 — ending on the Holy Evening itself, which is after all what Hallowe’en means. I’m posting today, a day before, in case you want to try it out yourself. Or you could start on the 27th, with Samhain/Beltane as the middle day, and continue for four days after for your count of nine. Or try seven days, or five. The point is to make a shape, and then fill it with a practice, with intention, with doing and experiencing and trying on the shape for size and fit, partly to see how well it actually works.

Much has been written recently about how to deal with toxic ancestors (here’s one example). Do a blog search if you need support in that regard. I’m focusing on a few ancestors I specifically choose to remember. As for inviting their presence, if they’re direct blood ancestors, I carry them in me already, in all their messy humanness. And I can make any invitation to a ritual quite specific: to those who wish me well, whom I respect and love, whose legacy deserves acknowledging, whose imprint helps shape me in ways I benefit from. If I need a further reminder, I can look in a mirror. That I’m here at all, I owe to those who came before me, and built this physical form from their own bodies. If it feels right, include a small mirror for the ritual.

Fire works so well at these times because of the major seasonal shifts occurring — whether into early winter, or early summer. In both cases, fire fits. It signals to the unconscious that something profound is happening, that something elemental is one appropriate response. If I do nothing more each day than light a fire — a candle, a lamp, a blaze in the woodstove or fireplace — and sit in silence for a time with that light, that flame, I am opening a portal for memory and inspiration and deep reflection. As the wisest recipes advise, season to taste.

You might find a star meditation a simple addition. If you’ve investigated ceremonial magic, you’ve likely heard of the rituals of the pentagram, of summoning and banishing forms. Here at these elemental times a full panoply of the Four Elements and Spirit is good to recall, to embody, to honor and enact. With nothing else needed but fire and my own body (“earth my body, water my blood, air my breath and fire my spirit”), I have all I need. Anything I opt to add is a gift, an offering. If I choose, as one part of my simple ritual, I can shape a star in the ethers, the akasha, the astral, drawing it with a forefinger, good as any wand. If I need or choose, I can declare my finger a wand for the purpose of ritual. Or search the day before I start my Days of Samhain for a found object as wand or magical tool. Spirit honors creativity, because we’re doing what It does all the time. We’re awen-izing.

Or I may spend that fire interval of each day’s ritual just journaling. I can mark each entry with a star, or do any other rituals that surround my writing. “Here begins the first day of my fire writing …” and I’m on my way for that day’s entry.

When you start thinking and imagining these things, the ritual also starts taking shape.

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Emnight, Equinox, Opportunity

A year ago today I posted:

Ah, Emnight — that word I’ve lifted wholesale from Old English emniht, from *efenniht “even-night, equal night (and day); equinox”. (Hail, Kin Down Under at the official start of Spring)!

A good word to revive in modern English, as the waxing full moon (se fulla mōna) strives to match it in our September skies. On emnihtes dæg, ðæt is ðonne se dæg and sēo niht gelīce lange bēoþ, writes Bede in the 700s in his De Natura Rerum. “On the day of equinox, that is when the day and the night be equally long”.

It’s fruitful to consider as well that the moon is a planet-wide marker, independent of season (though it signals different seasons in different lands). Here’s a celestial object that (barring fog or cloud or smoke) everyone on the planet can see within a single 24-hour period.

So here at this 2021 equinox we have the sun and moon together. If you already celebrate a moon ritual, why not combine it with the equinox in a couple days?

[Cool, dude. So where’s your equinox ritual?]

Many magical groups traditionally took special note of the energies around the equinox. J. M. Greer notes in Golden Dawn-focused book Circles of Power:

The spring and fall equinoxes are points of special importance in the Golden Dawn tradition, and are celebrated with special ceremonies in Golden Dawn temples. During the forty-eight hours to each side of the actual moment of the equinox—the moment when the Sun crosses the celestial equator—Sun and Earth stand in a relationship which allows a much more intense flow of energy between them, and the etheric body of the earth is charged and renewed. (Circles of Power: An Introduction to Hermetic Magic, 3rd edition, London: Aeon Books, 2017, pg. 39).

You may feel a number of reactions to this, including indifference, complete mystification, ridicule, curiosity, or even palpable envy that someone, somewhere, is celebrating special empowering ceremonies you know nothing about.

Let me step back a moment. One of the challenges of living in time is an intermittent and creeping sense of “same-old same-old”. This can burn fiercely enough that some people will feel driven to throw off a “perfectly good set of personal circumstances”, changing houses, spouses, sexual orientations, jobs, friends, beliefs, countries of residence and much more. (Before anyone chides me about the unwokeness of “changing sexual orientations at whim”, remember that their reality and impact, versus our awareness of them, can diverge widely. It’s the latter I’m talking about. Isn’t the same thing true about so much in our lives?)

[My patience is wearing thin, dude. Where’s the ritual, and this ‘opportunity’ of the post title?]

The point of mentioning this is to remind myself first, and secondly anyone else who reads this far, that what has been called in the Judeo-Christian tradition the “sanctification of time” is a major strategy of most if not all spiritual paths. That is, how can we vividly mark what matters in life? How do we acknowledge and celebrate — and consecrate — those moments of transcendence we all experience, even if only a handful of times in a typical life? How — for those hungry for more such moments, more connection, more “wow” — do we accommodate such hunger? How can I start to be a little less “typical”, because I’m simply weary of it? What, to sum up, can we do about “all this”?

“Do something about all this” addresses in potentially profound ways the sense of “same-old same-old” that I mentioned above. It’s even more applicable in such WTF* times as these. If we look at societies undergoing profound transformation, as so many are these days (and as the U.S. where I live certainly is), the stress and distress that such changes cause can be eased and understood more clearly, even anticipated to a considerable degree, through spiritual practices that correspond with our lived experience. We can suffer less, and help those we love survive and thrive, if we attend to our deepest wellsprings and connections to the cosmos. We can find renewal, energy, hope, inspiration.

The secret here, if there is one, is that “there’s no OSFA” — no “one size fits all”. The ritual or ceremony or spiritual practice that lights one person up like a flame leaves another scowling or giving up on all spirituality as a stinking puddle of hooey. But with deep misery and anger and, most of all, the widespread fear in these times, we might even begin with the “Litany Against Fear” from Frank Herbert’s Dune series (and past and current films):

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

The initial value of the “Litany Against Fear” is that it gives us something to do besides fear. We can apply the same principle to other rituals and practices. (Often the shift of attention off the problem or issue or concern is an immediate gift of ritual. Another gift is the shift of attention onto something positive, desirable, appealing, wise, lovable, etc. If ritual did nothing else, these two gifts would be considerable. “But wait! There’s more!”)

What am I already doing that I can and want to do more of? (Try to write down five things. Or three. Or seven.)

What can I celebrate that I already do, that has value or importance in my life? (How might I celebrate it? Food, music, a walk, time with family, friends, neighbors, a pet?)

When are there intervals, minutes or transitions in my daily, weekly, monthly life that I can give myself the gift of downtime, however brief, to do these first two things?

The shapes that these acts and rituals take, then, will depend on you, your choices, circumstances, resources. That’s a good thing, because they will fit you better than somebody else’s choices, circumstances, resources. You can start so small it feels almost too easy. In fact, if you find yourself asking Is that all? that can be a good sign to add one more thing. But the first practice should indeed feel almost too easy. Too easy not to do it. And then to do it again.

You may want to consider doing more than this. the regular practice of meditation is the most basic practice in most systems of magical initiation, and for good reason. It develops skills that make every other kind of magical work easier and more powerful, and also brings the kind of self-knowledge and self-awareness that keep the initiatory process on track. Ten or fifteen minutes a day of meditation will take you further, faster, than any other practice that exists (J. M. Greer. The Mysteries of Merlin, Llewellyn, 2020, pgs. 80-81).

Here Greer is writing about meditation as an aid to benefiting from ritual practices focused around the figure of Merlin, but the counsel is sound, as anyone who follows through and sees the benefits he describes can attest.

Another step to deepen the ritual I’ve sketched above — your answers to the three prompts — is to include that detail from Greer’s observations about the Golden Dawn: “Sun and Earth stand in a relationship which allows a much more intense flow of energy between them, and the etheric body of the earth is charged and renewed”.

Using your creativity and imagination, what do these feel like? Look like? Sound like? Make your answers part of your ritual. As with your moon ritual, what tools, props, objects, music, costumes, locales, actions can assist in making this experience more concrete?

As you continue to practice your ritual, ask how the ritual itself can deepen, or change, or spin off and lead to other rituals. Note down any answers before they flee, which they will often do, like dreams when you first wake up. Greer notes:

One core advantage … is that the newcomer to the work can start with a simple form …, work at that level for a period, then use the skills developed at that stage of the work to add higher and deeper dimensions to the practice if he or she wishes to do so (Mysteries of Merlin, pg. 63).

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*WTF is a flexible acronym with a good range of applicable meanings. Beyond its four-letter word version are versions like these: Who to follow? What to fix? Where to flee? Why this fits? Ways to flourish, wisdom to find … keep going with your own versions!

Pieces of Eight!

Here are “eight things on the eighth” in my attention. Is one or more of them as valuable as the historic piece of eight? “You be the judge!”

The FIRST is the celebration of a New England Druid gathering called BAM, happening this weekend. Many of my favorite people will be there. It’s been kept intentionally small as a balanced response to Covid, and the autumn season here in the northern hemisphere means most of it can take place outdoors. (I won’t be attending, unfortunately. It’s a choice; both my wife and I have pre-existing conditions, and we’re trying to stay healthy for each other, and “minimize the avoidables”. We’re aware not everyone has that luxury, and everyone adapts to these global circumstances in their own ways.)

Previous BAM, photo courtesy Cat McDonald

The other SEVEN are from a previous post that served as notes for this post. Often I write that way, talking about something in my attention, but needing a second run at it to firm it up and make it accessible and possibly useful for my readers.

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ONE — As with so much ritual, Pagan or otherwise, it’s useful to reflect from time to time on what still carries meaning, and what we may have retained simply “because it’s always been done this way”.

What’s one thing “I’ve always done this way” that I could do differently, in order to try out a consciously-chosen change that might be advantageous?

TWO — The potency that ritual often celebrates may merge with elements of the ritual itself, and we can end up revering the elements over the original potency, with or without good cause.

Where have I spent energy in transference that I could reclaim or redirect for the benefit of the whole?

THREE — At times we may find ourselves noticing that the ritual begins to feel flat, dim, empty. (It’s the same principle that underlies sympathetic magic, which we’re witnessing in weakened forms in vast swathes of current events, as influences bleed almost uncontrollably from one person and thing to another and another, like a pandemic or flash flood or wild fire. These are both metaphors and realities that have much to teach, if we could begin to listen.)

What (else) are the metaphor and reality trying to teach?

FOUR — Regeneration so often occurs from the roots, so it’s good to examine what these are, and whether we’re caretaking the dead leaves of one season, or nourishing a vital root-stock that sends out green shoots and runners each spring.

What are the roots in my life? Do I know? Can I name them and make them a more conscious part of each day and its tasks and joys?

FIVE — For care-taking is a large part of what we’re called to do, less in the way the word gets used today, where we’re “merely” standing in for the “real owners”, and more in the literal sense: a taking-care, a cherishing and nurturing.

What needs cherishing and nurturing? How am I particularly situated to tend to the cherishing I can do?

SIX — Give the fear and stress and suffering of much of the planet, we might begin with taking care of ourselves, and as it grows, let that care flow outward. Like any valid spiritual practice, Druidry offers tools to do just that.

What tools have I found effective? What other tools could I explore, or am being led to explore?

SEVEN — The commitment of the two people hand-fasting in the presence of the community assembled as witnesses, and with their love and support for the commitment the couple undertakes, and the acknowledgement of the mirth and reverence, the beauty and mystery that characterize the event, offer useful models for action. Which of those elements can I practice today in my life?

Where and how do I (already) support others’ commitments? Where can I further acknowledge mirth and reverence?

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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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Mooning the Druid, Druiding the Moon

Ready or not, here I come! says Moon, childhood companion of so many days and nights.

According to a handy online app, some 760 full moons have lit the sky since I arrived in this incarnation. How many of them have I even noticed? Of those, how many have I celebrated? Does that number matter? Or is celebration of what is, right now, a better focus?

It’s good to see readership for “Towards a Full Moon Ritual” climb each month in the days before a full moon. More of us seek out the “how” — we often have some sense of the “what” already. That post, and many others here, arose from my experiences of less and more effective ritual. Some of the “best” rituals are the ones that “didn’t work”, that provoked inquiry, or reflection that in spite of “appearances”, something happened that matters. Maybe I “didn’t feel it”, but it felt me, changed me in ways that the ritual helped shape. Experience remains the supreme teacher. (If you don’t believe it, just scan the day’s headlines. Slow learners, every one of us.)

How bright the darkness, how dark the light …

Google “What does the moon mean?” — because you’re bored, because procrastination is better than anything else on offer right now, because Google can entertain with such questions and their crowd-sourcing answers — and the first result may tell you something like “The moon is a feminine symbol”. Really? That would be news to the Anglo-Saxons a millennium ago. To speakers of Old English, the sun sēo sunne is feminine, and the moon se mōna is masculine. Ever hear of the Man in the Moon? Or consider the image of a woman some have identified as Mary in Revelation 12, “clothed with the sun …”

When we Druid the moon, we can discover our meanings, plural. When things mean, it’s we who are “doing the meaning”, after all. For if meanings inhere in things independently of our perception, where do they come from? Does each thing arrive on the scene with a full set of ’em, hanging off them like holiday decorations? Does the moon “represent a feminine symbol” to last night’s owl? Or to the pines and hemlocks swaying in the wind out my window right now, as a cold front works its way through the northeastern U.S.? Is the moon “meaningful” only to humans?

I stand in moonlight as I sing.
Moonlight and shadow make a ring.
The moon could mean most anything —
don’t wait to find out …

That’s better. Too much thought, not enough song. Wait to find out and I could wait a long time. But song — that leads me straight to the heart of things.

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Often the moon is more of a mood than a meaning. There it is, mooning us all month long, silver arrows lodging in our hearts. Because some months, basking in moonlight may be all the ritual you need.

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Here we are, just past the Equinox, just past Emnight [1 | 2]. Doth the moon shine that night we play our play? asks Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And Bottom answers, Find out moonshine, find out moonshine! — some of the best advice anyone could give me, whatever my season.

Moonlight is my ritual, says the Moon-Druid. Let the Moon sing me, the whole dream long.

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Welcome, new visitor from Ecuador!

Apparent Worlds and “Druid Choice”

There’s been a lot of talk in recent decades about choice, and about freedom. Do we know what these things are, or how to perceive them? And if we know and perceive them, what do we do with them? What will we create?

Spring Dreaming … 15 Mar 2021

“As this circle is cast, the enchantment of the apparent world subsides”, says the first part of standard OBOD ritual. These are the words we hear at the same time we see — feel — hear — another Druid physically creating a ritual circle. The ritualist’s circular movement achieves this, along with any intention that person has as they cast the circle. The ritualist doesn’t stand alone, but enjoys the help of anyone else participating, with or without skin on. Visualizing, intending, choosing, celebrating, focusing energy, inviting the circle to manifest. Seeing and sensing it do so.

Any participants in the ritual are already standing in a circle before they hear the words — a kind of reversal of the usual affirmation: as below, so above. The physical reality of people gathered at the event precedes the circle that will be completed inwardly. You might see this as a Druid version of “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”. Or in fact is this too part of the enchantment — that we may confuse outer and inner, or think that one “precedes” and the other “follows”? Are they, or can they be, facets of the same thing, standing outside time even as they manifest within it?

Each person participating may also hear and experience the “subsiding of the apparent world” differently: as a gentle suggestion, or as a simple statement of fact. Or maybe it’s a ritual assumption, something “you do during ritual”. Or perhaps it’s “just words, like all the rest of the ritual”, a kind of communal game or sport or play: ritual theater. Or it’s an observation about transformation and magic. Each of us inhabits multiple apparent worlds already. Literally, worlds that appear to us, that invite or seduce or beguile or convince us in turn, that lure us with promise of their own particular enchantments. If they appear, they also may disappear. Ritual invites us into this possibility of choice and transformation, suggesting we may choose and create more consciously and intentionally. (We may just need to choose an appropriate world, rather than insist on forcing one that may not be the best stage for manifesting a particular choice.)

Which worlds deserve my attention? Which one(s) am I in at the present moment? Can I achieve my purposes best by focusing on this particular world, or are there others where I may be freer to act and to fulfill my intentions more joyously? Does one need to recede so I can better focus on others?

“Come! Be a physical body, experience touch and time, change and pleasure, death and birth, loss and love,” one world invites us. “Ah! Wear a body of light, and move across the cosmos to serve where you are needed”, sings another world. “Won’t you join others in their quest to X?” whispers a third.

Or if this is the only world there is, then when the “apparent world” fades, what’s left? Where am I? Do I jump into “ritual vertigo” if I let go of this world? Is ritual in fact “safe”? And so I enter yet another world with its own answers to such questions, if I choose to accept them.

One link, or common thread, or clue, or all three at once and more besides, for me anyway, rests in the awen. As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, this is the longest practice I’ve kept up, to enter the world of primordial sound and creativity.

As with most Druid practices, this isn’t one that requires me to believe anything, but simply do something. Over time I may well come to believe certain things, much as someone who has seen the sun rise in the east for decades might begin to be confident it will to do so again tomorrow. I can’t “prove” it, but proof just isn’t all that interesting to me anymore. There are much better things to focus on, more interesting and deserving worlds to choose.

In his new book Cerridwen: Celtic Goddess of Inspiration, Kristoffer Hughes notes that when we enter this soundscape and world of awen, “several things will happen on a number of levels. On a physiological level, something particularly magical happens with the systems of your body. Song and singing profoundly affects almost all of our senses, and the vibratory quality of the sound is particularly affecting, having direct action on the cells of your body…” (pg. 243). He goes on to explore other effects of awen as a practice, on other levels, as a way to communicate with life and lives. Even a little singing or chanting can produce results.

I return yet again to an observation by Philip Carr-Gomm which strikes me as uncommon good sense in these challenging times:

Try opening to Awen not when it’s easy, but when it’s difficult: not when you can be still and nothing is disturbing you, but when there’s chaos around you, and life is far from easy. See if you can find Awen in those moments. It’s harder, much harder, but when you do, it’s like walking through a doorway in a grimy city street to discover a secret garden that has always been there – quiet and tranquil, an oasis of calm and beauty. One way to do this, is just to tell yourself gently “Stop!” Life can be so demanding, so entrancing, that it carries us away, and we get pulled off-centre. If we tell ourselves to stop for a moment, this gives us the opportunity to stop identifying with the drama around us, and to come back to a sense of ourselves, of the innate stillness within our being. And then, sometimes, we are rewarded with Awen at precisely this moment.

Rather than judging one world as “good” and another as “bad”, I can simply note if I’m pulled off-center while I’m in it. (Sometimes the distraction is the point!) If you’re like me, you may only realize this after the fact. Then I ask if that’s what I want. If I’m pulled away from myself, and if I’ve identified with the drama around me, rather than with what I am, I can test a world further: can I act freely and creatively as the presence of awen in this moment? The awen I sing, from the deep I bring it, sings Taliesin. Can I do that right now? Can I come back to a sense of myself and act in my best interests?

If I can, the way of awen is a good way for me. And if I can’t? Then the way of awen might be a good way for me …

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This post has offered a number of seeds for contemplation and practice. As we near the equinox, a time of balance, they can give us fruitful ways to manifest and mirror what the seasons are doing around us.

Brighid’s Moon

28 Jan. 2021 Full Moon

A blessed Imbolc to you!

It’s Brighid’s Moon, this month of transition, north and south, east and west.

In our perhaps too-precise modern world, we note that the full moon came a few days “before” Imbolc (Lunasa, and Lugh’s Moon, to friends Down Under). But it feels likely that in pre-modern times the full moon and the festival would take place at the same time. After all, why not?!

Yes, timing matters a lot, and also not a bit, for such things.

For anyone inclined to notice the moon at all, a full moon is a wonderful link to others around us. Look up and you know that almost everyone on the planet who also bothers to look can see the moon in her shining splendor within the same 24-hour period, unless the skies are cloudy. (Then we can feel the moon.)

In her Celtic Devotional Caitlin Matthews notes this is a splendid season to remember and celebrate the “midwives of the soul”. Wise counsel indeed! I’m a member of a genealogy site that you can set to email you reminders of ancestors’ birthdays, weddings, etc. — I find it’s a good way to pause several times a month (depending on how detailed your family tree is) and consider the lives of those who’ve gone before me, walking this human path through their own times of challenge and blessing. (One of my grandmothers 6 generations back died at 19 while giving birth to her third child — a brief life, but also one that led to many descendants, including me. As someone who suspects reincarnation in some form accounts for a great deal of the rebalancing in our lives over the long term, I also imagine that soul returning generations later, possibly through a “descendant doorway” which that previous and painfully short lifetime made possible. Our lives belong to, and shape, a far wider circle than we often know.)

Brighid of the Snows, Brighid of the Full Moon, Patron of poets, smiths, healers …

I’m spending half this afternoon apologizing to ghosts, writes John Murillo in one of his poems in Up Jump the Boogie. It’s what we may find ourselves doing, if we’re mindful about the past, the present, our own struggles. In another poem Murillo says, like all bards, This poem is a finger pointing at the moon … You big dummy, don’t look at my finger, I’m trying to show you the moon. I fill up yet another blogpost with words, still trying, fumblingly, awkwardly. We celebrate Imbolc with an OBOD ritual, or alone, silently, offering droplets of wine to the full moon. We bring in snowmelt and offer it at Brighid’s altar.

On Sunday evening, five of us in Vermont gathered via Zoom to celebrate using the OBOD solo rite for Imbolc. The solo rites parallel the group ones, but they’re less formal, more inward-looking, more flexible for whoever shows up. We assign roles on the spot, do some spontaneous rearranging or improvising where necessary, honoring the spirit of the rite. We’ve been doing this since for more than six months now, after a hiatus when it looked like our seed-group might not endure. Mystic River Grove, active now for over 30 years, holds its rituals online with a few dozen attending each time.

As I often do, I find ritual both intermittently frustrating and unexpectedly moving. One of our members with an inerrant ear for poetry usually has something to read for us which captures the thread and flame at the heart of the ritual, the core experience of gathering to honor the season. This time she read from Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris’s The Lost Spells, the second book of poems to emerge from the decision a few years back by Oxford University Press to remove words naming the natural world from a popular children’s dictionary. One reviewer of MacFarlane’s book (and apparently not a regular reader of poetry) complains, “Since when is a poem a spell?” When, we might all reply, oh when has it ever been anything else?

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“There was never”, says Walt Whitman, “any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now”.

If that’s true, it’s both bad and good news. Bad, because wow! I really need to apologize to my ghosts, my ancestral heritage. Good, because I don’t need to: I have what I need right now, just as they did and do.

On its website, OBOD offers a guide called “Treasures of the Tribe: Guidelines for OBOD Seed Groups and Groves” that anyone can download as a PDF. In addition to being a fund of hard-earned wisdom about the dynamics of groups, and an insight into the feel of the OBOD “style” and its flavor of Druidry, it offers an excellent seed for meditation and reflection and conscious action:

A useful question to ask, when difficulties arise, is: ‘Is there a gift here, trying to manifest itself?’ or: ‘What is it that is seeking transformation?’

That is a gift for any season.

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A Druidry FAQ

This is a post that will become a page on this site, because the topics it addresses raise perennial questions. Its direct inspiration comes from discussions on Druid social media sites, and from your search terms here at A Druid Way.

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If you bear in mind the popular saying “Ask three Druids and you’ll get ten answers”, you should be in good shape. This short FAQ arises out of one person’s experience, study and reflection. As with most things, a second – and third – opinion will be very useful and give you a broader and more informed perspective.

What is Druidry?

Druid author J. M. Greer gives an answer that’s held up well over time: Druidry “means following a spiritual path rooted in the green Earth … It means embracing an experiential approach to religious questions, one that abandons rigid belief systems in favor of inner development and individual contact with the realms of nature and spirit”. While beliefs matter, more important is what Druids do each day. An openness to experiences and encounters in nature forms part of the Druid perspective.

Do Druids believe ____ ?

Some probably do. Many may not. No single creed or statement of faith unites all Druids, because Druidry is an individual spiritual practice or way of life rather than a set of beliefs. In this way, it’s like asking “What do carpenters believe?” This sets it apart from many Western monotheistic faiths, and also makes it possible to be a Christian and a Druid, an agnostic and a Druid, etc.

However, it’s possible to talk about what Druids believe using general statements with “most” and “many”. Here’s a Triad that probably characterizes a large number of Druids:

Most Druids are united by a love and respect for nature, and show an attentive attitude towards its rhythms and cycles that they may express in seasonal observances like the solstices and equinoxes. Secondly, many Druids also perceive a spiritual dimension to life, though that may or may not mean belief in a god or gods. Third, many Druids also express their perspectives and experiences creatively, through craft or art, carrying on in modern forms the traditions of the ancient Bards.

Do you have to have Celtic ancestry to be a Druid?

No. The ancient Celts were a culture, or set of related cultures and languages, rather than a single genetic bloodline. Given that the Celtic peoples apparently ranged across much of Europe, from Ireland and Portugal to Germany and Italy, and possibly further east, settling and intermarrying with other peoples, this shouldn’t be too surprising. It’s true there are a few and mostly small Druid groups who require their members to demonstrate a specific ancestry — often Irish or Scottish. But our ability to love and respect and live lightly on the earth certainly doesn’t need or benefit from genetic gate-keeping. Anyone anywhere on the planet can practice Druidry starting right now.

Where do the teachings of modern Druidry come from?

A range of sources. Many traditional stories in surviving Celtic literature like the Welsh Mabinogion point to Druid practices and understandings. In several cases, they also provide teaching stories and initiatory insights which several Druid groups use in their training. While a few individuals and groups claim to preserve ancient or hereditary Druid practices and beliefs, in most cases these are the common folk wisdom of most pre-modern cultures around the world: a knowledge of herbs and natural cycles, animal and plant and star-lore. More important than how old they may be is the question: “Do they work today?”

The Renaissance recovery of Classical sources, the influences of Neo-Platonism, Arabic learning in astronomy and medicine, mathematics and alchemy and astrological lore, and the British Druid Revival beginning in the 1600s, all play their part in helping to deepen Druidry. Practices of meditation and visualization also derive from a variety of sources. Most Druid teachings emphasize learning from our own locale. The trees, plants, animals and landscape, previous inhabitants and climate all have many things to teach.

How do I become a Druid?

For anyone alive today, the path to Druidry has been made smoother and broader by books and the internet. Many Druids are great readers. Books can give you a sense of the range and depth of Druid practice, and inspire you to adapt relevant portions of it to your own life and circumstances. (See Books and Links.) The internet can connect you to active and established Druid groups, who offer events and resources for members and non-members alike. But while these sources can be helpful and inspirational, a walk around one’s home area is an excellent prime starting point. What can I learn about — and from — the trees and animals and plants in my region? Who lived here before me, and what did they know? What local geographical features like mountains or lakes or the ocean influence the weather? How do I “fit” where I live?

Can I be a Druid without joining a Druid organization?

Absolutely. Even those Druids affiliated with an organization are often “solitary” Druids for 350 days out of each year. Curiosity, a willingness to learn and study what interests you, and reverence for the earth are the marks of a Druid, not membership in any group. (See my post Druiding without An Order.)

What do we know about ancient Druids?

Direct evidence is comparatively modest. We have archaeological discoveries and the accounts of Classical authors contemporary with ancient Druids. We can make intelligent guesses from some of these sources, but much remains unknown. The single best book on the subject is Prof. Ronald Hutton’s Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain.

How can anyone claim to be a Druid today, if we know so little about the ancient Druids or their practices?

Philip Carr-Gomm, former Chief of OBOD, the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, addresses this directly:

“Contemporary Druidry draws on a heritage of thousands of years, and yet many of its ideas and practices have only been formed over the last few hundred years. Unlike most of the established religions, which are based on doctrine formulated in the distant past, Druidry is developing its philosophy and practices in response to the spirit of the times. It is being shaped now rather than being preserved or simply passed on, and paradoxically, although it is inspired and informed by an ancient heritage, it is surprisingly free of the weight of the past. This leaves modern Druidry open to the criticism that it has been invented; but it also makes it a thoroughly contemporary spirituality that speaks directly to the needs of today” (What Do Druids Believe?, pgs. 2-3).

I love Druidry but I don’t like ____ . Can I still be a Druid?

If you already know you love Druidry, nothing more needs to be said. You’re in excellent company — the wider “Druid world” require very few things from a Druid except that love and respect for nature.

(For some people, magic or ritual are words they might put in the blank above. Stick with Druidry and you may well find out more of what they’re all about. But again, absolutely neither is any kind of requirement.)

We can apply/adapt the words of Jesus here (as in many cases): “People aren’t made for Druidry; Druidry is made for people”. Go with what truly works for you, and you’re walking a path with heart.

Are there initiations in Druidry?

Because you can be a Druid by yourself, no initiations are necessary. With that said, some Druid groups offer study materials that include self-initiations — opportunities to deepen and hallow your experiences and understanding. And some groups make initiations a prerequisite for advancing within the group.

Life presents us with a few initiations of its own that all of us experience. Practice Druidry over time, and you’ll pass through the initiations of death, sickness, loss, change, love and birth. Your Druidry can help you navigate those experiences with greater understanding, resilience, growth, and compassion for others.

I like what I’ve read about Druidry, but I don’t believe in _____ .

If you love and respect the natural world, you’re ready to practice Druidry. If you’ve read the other parts of this FAQ, you know you don’t need to believe to be a Druid — you need to practice. Many of your beliefs will come from those experiences. More encounters and reflection may help you get a clearer picture of Druidry and what it means for you. Books, experiences with groups, study, and time spent in nature can all help you clarify your next steps.

Which Druid order has the best ____ ?

The inside word on that is ___ .

What about people who say Druidry is ____ ?

You may have noticed that we live in an era where almost everything now has both ardent fans and unrelenting critics. The best way to respond (or ignore) is to practice Druidry yourself over at least a few years — then you’ll know what it is for you. The second best way is to attend some Druid events with practicing Druids, observe thoughtfully, and ask questions. The third best way is reading widely. As Druid leader, Her Majesty’s coroner (anatomical pathologist), actor, author, drag queen and popular speaker Kristoffer Hughes likes to say, “What other people think of you is none of your business” (unless you’re planning on running for office).

If you’d like an objective tool to assess any group, you’ll find Isaac Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame most helpful.

Can I be your student? / Will you teach me?

This blog offers more than enough enough material for you to pick up the practice of Druidry, and to locate diverse sources to answer your questions better than I can, and to guide a beginning practice. Ultimately, your best teacher is the Land you live on.

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For the book titles cited, see the page Books & Links on Druidry. For the names of people, see the page Voices of Modern Druidry.

Nine Days of Solstice 9 — Monday

[Prelude |1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9]

Blessings of the Solstice to you! From the South to the North, from the East to the West.

Five of us from Vermont’s seed group, Well of Segais, gathered for a Solstice Zoom last night. For all their quirks and e-glitches, such technologies have helped so many connect over these past months, when the need has been great. The size of a Zoom gathering, as many have discovered, seems to reach optimum around a dozen or fewer. Beyond that, unless the group has evolved good strategies for careful listening and turn taking (or had them imposed by organizers), participants can end up talking over each other. A ritual helps enjoin a more meditative pace, good for helping members sink into reflection and attention. Without a physical ritual circle, more of the work is open for doing inwardly.

During the ritual meditation, I saw each of us five braiding ribbons of light that encircled us. It’s rare that events like this bring vision with them for me — often the experience is more subtle. Beyond any accompanying intuition and emotional response at the time — useful in themselves as part of the “barometer” of an experience — the value of it lies in what I do with it. I’ve recorded it, and it will serve as a subject for contemplation. Recalling it, as I’m doing now, evokes gratitude. In the future, it’s useful confirmation, one more link in a sequence of experiences and encounters, insights and hunches, that make up the trajectory of my life. In a few months I may have forgotten it, until I re-read it: “Sunday, 20 December 2020. Alban Arthan/Yule/Solstice ritual with Well of Segais …” Though forgetting is now less likely, because I’ve grounded it by writing about it, reflecting on it.

As a visualization, it reminds me of my links to everyone else, and how we can all choose to tend such connections with care and love, or otherwise. A blessing on the power of human choice! In the middle of the next challenge I will face, it goes to form part of my toolkit. “Braid now for light, braid for love …” If any of this post resonates with you, it comes to form part of your toolkit as well. And so each gift we receive can ripple outward.

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Each of the “Great Eight” seasonal festivals bears its attendant blessings. They’re not all the same, in part because we’re not the same, when we arrive at the time and place of them. Thank you for walking with me thus far, whether you’re new to this blog, or a long-time reader.

If there’s a ritual for the closing of this sequence of nine posts for Solstice, part of it surely comes in the form of the Scottish blessing that opens my “About” page on this site, which I’ll end with here. If you will, say the words aloud with me:

May the blessing of light be on you — light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire,
so that stranger and friend may come and warm themselves at it.

And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.

And may the blessing of the rain be on you,
may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean, and leave
there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.

And may the blessing of the earth be on you,
soft under your feet as you pass along the roads,
soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day;
and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it.

May it rest so lightly over you that your spirit may be out
from under it quickly; up and off and on its way.
And now may the Spirit bless you, and bless you kindly.

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The next post will be the Top 10 A Druid Way Posts for 2020.

Nine Days of Solstice 8 — Sunday

[Prelude |1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9]

“I could be bounded in a nutshell”, exclaims Hamlet in Act II, “and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams”. All right, Hamlet: Dream better.

That’s often the kind of advice we receive. On the face of it, it’s sound, solid. But utterly useless. “If I knew how“, many find themselves thinking, “don’t you think I would?”

Maybe that’s one reason the “how” has interested me for so long. How did you get where you are? How do you go where you want to go? How do you even find out there’s a “where” worth going to? And sometimes: What can I do right now, starting today, that will make any difference at all?

As even part-time readers of this blog know (and are probably weary of hearing me say), a practice is essential for all of these things. Most likely, you’re already doing a version of it and can build on it. It certainly needn’t look like somebody else’s practice. If you do something for love, you’re already half-way there. Nobody starts from scratch. Once you have that kindling, that’s where the Secret Fire lies. As my teacher likes to say, then you start with one small thing, and do it with all the love and attention you can. It may be tying your shoes. Sometimes starting that small is just right. Build from that single step, on your way to your kingdom. Our power lies in how far we can extend that kind of dedication and devotion over time. As it opens, you get caught by the vision, by the good dream, and you’re on your way.

A practice, it needs to be said, isn’t all easy going. Sometimes you run across barren patches. In a 2012 post I wrote:

On first sight (or much later, depending on the particular script we’re following), the world can be a forbidding place. We all go through emotional and psychological winters at times. Nothing seems to provide warmth or comfort, so we hunker down and endure. And we can get so good at this kind of half-life that we mistake merely surviving for full-hearted thriving. Well-meaning friends or family who try to console us with various messages of hope or endurance (“This too shall pass”) can’t budge us from our heaviness.

“Wind and ice are the only deciders of symmetry”, writes upstate New Yorker Linda Allardt in one of her poems. “Survival makes do for grace”. The instinct to survive, one we share with our animal kin, is often what carries us through. There’s a stoicism there which can serve us, if we don’t take it and make it our only stance worth cultivating.

The Solstices are times to watch for change and chance. The hidden changes implicit in the imminent shift of energy and consciousness which Druids symbolize and celebrate in the seasonal festivals also find expression in the starkly beautiful lines of “First Sight” by British poet Philip Larkin.

Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth’s immeasurable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.

For that is how at least some changes arrive — immeasurable, ungraspable, unlike anything that went before. With a practice, we’re more able to work with their energy and momentum, rather than merely be swept up and along with them, or miss them entirely. In many ways, Druidry provides tools for navigating change.

A key insight I’ve found true in my experience sees expression in R. J. Stewart’s observation about magic. “The purpose of magical arts” — and here we can accurately substitute spiritual practice, or devotion to a craft or art — “is to enable the changes within the individual by which he or she may apprehend these further methods inwardly” (Living Magical Arts, pg. 3). A kind of teaching takes place through our practice. Our determination to persevere, to dig deeper, sets in motion a series of insights tailored to our particular circumstances and purposes, which gives us the experience Jesus talks about when he says “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”. We find the spiritual principles that work for us because they meet us where we are.

These things can be hard to talk about for obvious reasons. Either one looks arrogant or deluded, or often enough a combination of both. But anyone with similar experiences can nod in recognition — and share their stories. J M Greer reminds us that

Druidry means following a spiritual path rooted in the green Earth … It means embracing an experiential approach to religious questions, one that abandons rigid belief systems in favor of inner development and individual contact with the realms of nature and spirit.

Until you have the experience of it (whatever it is for you), you may have a range of beliefs about it, for sure, but it’s your insight flowing from your own contact with the realms of nature and spirit that counts more, and longer. The path, the only path worth walking, the “path with heart”, is to continue that contact, to see where it leads, to trust it, because trust also opens doors that will not otherwise open. Part of Greer’s point is that any authority worth having comes from within, not from another person. Our human tendency is too often to look for the next Holy Magister 27th-Grade Ipsissimus Archdruid Deluxe Squared for “the answers”, which usually won’t be our answers anyway. (For some amusing insights on this, do a search of my posts on One Genuine Real Live Druidry — OGRELD).

south yard, yesterday, after clearing the way to our woodshed

The most that any outside authority can do is help us recognize the fire inside us, to suggest ways of keeping it burning, to point out directions towards firewood, to guide us to lighting up the path along the way.

Our inner Sovereignty, you might say, can often look like a hearth.

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Nine Days of Solstice 7 — Saturday

[Prelude |1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9]

What now, after making the Star? It’s a good question. After what feels like the completion of a cycle of manifestation, it can be a challenge to identify the next steps.

Ah, Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits—and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

says the Rubaiyat 73 of Omar Khayyam. We’re into the third Triad of the Nine Days of Solstice. What more? Well, the Bards have one corner of it, as usual. Khayyam lays it out for me in this stanza, if I’m willing to walk even some of the way with him, and listen. There’s a triad in human affairs, as in so many things: you, me, and “Fate”. Or as we could also call it, karma, the momentum of things we’ve already launched, that we’ve set in motion. The “sorry scheme of things” is one perspective on our making so far (not the only one, to be sure), and as with most human choices, once we receive what we wished for, we almost immediately aspire to something better. That’s an excellent feature of human consciousness, if I remember to treat it wisely and prudently. And yes, we can “remould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire” with the same abilities we moulded it in the first place.

The Green World is always green, whatever other colours it takes on.

The challenge for me is to decide on what plane I will do my remoulding. Try to do all of it here, I find, and I run into everyone else’s vision of Hearts’ Desire. I am indeed creating my possible futures — and so is everyone else. Our visions bump into each other, as often as not. I find that the place to focus the predominant part of my work is inwardly. Change my consciousness to match my desire, and the effects manifest far more easily than trying to the change the world first. It ripples out from each of us individually, when we do the work. That’s how the mass consciousness changes — one of us at a time, till we reach a critical inflection-point. You see it in birds preparing to migrate for the winter. Ones, and twos, and then larger practice flights, till it spreads like yeast through bread, “the whole is leavened”, and the entire flock is ready to take wing.

Jesus’s counsel to his disciples is clear: “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world”. The common denominator of mass consciousness, sometimes useful in brief bursts during ritual when properly tuned, isn’t something to try to sustain all the time. The apparent world isn’t the last word on much of anything. Part, just not whole. I can begin to overcome the less desirable effects of mass consciousness by breaking my agreement with it. Look at the vision of the world held out to us in most social media, and there’s not much to choose from. I can target where to place my attention, for the simple reason that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. How can I even know my “heart’s desire”, let alone manifest it, “remould” things nearer to it, if everything else is tugging at my attention, away from where I need to be looking?

Holding the Star in my vision, the Four Elements and Spirit, I pick up the Work again.

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