This past week I have had to hold my tongue. Sometimes it felt like I was holding my tongue so hard all I could taste was blood....
Sometimes, as a public Druid, I get frustrated. Because over and over again, I seem to be saying the same thing. 'What's a Druid?' 'What do Druids do?' and so on, and so forth. I suspect we all get this at some point or another, if we're 'out of the broom closet' in any way. We just smile and get on with it as part of life.
But I do worry. Is this because nobody's listening? Am I actually trying to con people into following this mad 'cult' of modern Paganism? And of most concern, am I on the take?
I'm not - but it's easy to see why people would think that.
Spirituality is a deeply personal, heartfelt thing - a state of being, mind, emotion... so much contained in a such a complex state that it's virtually impossible to put into words. Especially, I might add, when someone asks me suddenly to explain my Druidry in two minutes or less.
(Yes, this is me - in the woods near my home)
Who are the gods in Druidry? There is no one answer to this question, as deity, like religion, is such a personal thing in Paganism. There is no single authority telling us who our god is, or what She is saying. There are books, teachers, Orders, Groves etc that can offer paths of a tradition that may lead to a relationship with the gods, but again they won’t tell you exactly who they are – we’re given a map and a compass but we have to find our own way....
Death is not a winter activity, it does not come just with the falling of the leaves, but weaves its slow, funereal dance through every day of our lives. Each living breath for us times with a last breath for some other creature. We cut the corn for Lammas, (or at least, these days, someone cuts it and most of us never see it). The death of the corn represents the life of the tribe. And so we’ll dig out the one folk song every Pagan seems familiar with, and honour good old John Barleycorn reincarnating as beer. In celebrating the beer we can slide over the death of corn, and with it our own mortality. Reincarnation for us is really something to guess at, and when we are planted in the ground we do not put up fresh, green stalks of our own.
I’ve long been fascinated by the relationship death has with the four elements. Our methods for relinquishing the dead take us to all four of them, although different cultures favour some more than others, depending mostly on available resources and behaviour of climate. What I’m thinking about here is disposal of the body, not human sacrifice, although there are parallels. We can put the dead into the water. Most usually we’ll do that when at sea, in the absence of other means of disposal, and not wanting the danger of a rotting corpse on a boat. However, I recall reading about some ancient peoples who put their dead, or some of their dead into flowing water, by choice.
Returning the dead to the womb of the earth, we plant them, seed like. Natural decay processes will follow, but there is something strange about earth burial, the digging of the hole and raising of the mound. It accelerates and disguises what happens when we leave the dead upon the ground, but it tends to invite more complex ceremony....
Inspiration is at the core of my Paganism, through my chosen path as Druid. This path might just be a label to some, but it's the one that suits me best. It might not be exactly as our ancestors practiced... but I think there's a good chance there'd be common ground and understanding.
Because as human beings, don't we all wish to be inspired? From that 'light bulb' moment, the 'Eureka!' cry is sought after by any number of magical methods. From chewing the end of a pencil, to small prayers as you stare out of an office window, to the blinking cursor on a computer screen... Inspiration is to be sought. Inspiration is valued.
More drama has surfaced within wider Pagan community within recent weeks, particularly within the blogosphere between “polytheists” and “humanists”. I put those terms in quotes to blanket a lot of people under them, and because after all I’ve read regarding either camp, I’m not sure I understand what those terms really mean anymore.
Do you remember when you first stepped onto the Pagan path? Perhaps more years ago than you care to recall, perhaps only recently. But no doubt books and websites were raided for information, ideas, ways to practice, paths to investigate. We truly are blessed with a wealth of information these days, after all.
My quest began before the Internet. My recollection is of picking up 'A Witch's Bible' - that lovely, slightly scary-looking black tome, scavenged easily enough from the shelves of Borders bookstore - and seeing the pictures inside. The photographs from the 1970s of Janet Farrar, beautiful and resplendent in ritual, performing the symbolic Great Rite proudly and publicly. And, of course, very very naked.
Then came that word: 'Priestess'. Not just in Wicca, but everywhere I looked, the goal of all Pagans appeared to be the Priesthood. You were still just learning until you had finally achieved the right to that title. This was just around the time when folks were starting to self-initiate, so the controversy was relatively new.
It's been a while, but I'm back again, lovely readers! I'm currently hard at work on my second book (amongst other projects, as you'll see below), but I will certainly continue to post here as and when I can. Comments and topic requests always welcome.
At this time of year, it's easy to understand why our ancestors (both actual and spiritual), those wise women and cunning men, were considered remote, unusual, untouchable, even fearsome.
As Autumn moves into Winter here in the UK, we feel our natural, animal pull to dig in, hibernate, take time within the darkness to assess the previous year and anticipate the time to come - but I doubt any busy society has ever really allowed that to happen, except when they have no choice. Stoke up the fire, head to the pub or communal house, light and laughter against the outside world.
(Photo - 'Autumn in the New Forest', from Glastonbury Goddess Temple)
A cross-post this week, if I may - between here at my first blog 'home', and the wonderfully eclectic 'Witches & Pagans' site (because if you can't 'moonlight' as a Pagan, then who can?).
I am very aware that I haven't written anything at either location for a couple of weeks. I could give excuses - ultimately, the days have flown past and life has been more important. I'm sure we all know how that goes. Instead, take a wander with me, if you will.
Regular readers know that one of my favourite places for inspiration is as I walk the dog across the hilltop where I live. This evening I wandered the streets, looking out at the fierce clouds parting after an intense rain and thunder-storm just a few hours ago, the remnants of a rainbow, and the slightly 'stunned' feeling of a normal, modern, country village after a violent and unavoidable incident of Nature. The grass is rich and green, the snails appear to have made a small bypass across the path outside one particular row of houses, and the occasional early bat is swooping overhead.
One of the key foundations of modern (and ancient) Paganism is also one of the most contentious. We find it very hard to talk about, it seems, and yet it's fairly key to many people's personal practice. When I've talked about it in the past, it almost seems like I'm breaking a taboo, with the words themselves being 'dirty' or embarrassing. And yet, learning from my passionate and heartfelt Heathen friends, that embarrassment is itself disrespectful, dishonourable and, ultimately, rather foolish.
Who are your Gods and Goddesses? What does Deity mean to you, and how does it influence and affect your Paganism? From the Platonic 'ultimate Male/Female' images (tallying with 'All Gods/Goddesses are One') to the pantheistic, international eclectic transference of pretty much any deity with any other no matter where you yourself live, talking about Deity is a tricky business. Especially because ultimately, nobody can really tell you you're wrong. Or right. Except, perhaps, those Gods themselves.
The Judgement of Paris (Classical)
I've returned today from performing a Handfasting with my partner - not unusual at this time of year. But this was our first on a beach.
Yes, this is Britain. Yes, we've just had semi-monsoon conditions for the last few months. Summer was rumoured to have been cancelled. So much could have gone wrong.
It was beautiful. Golden sands, blue sky, bright sun, lush green grasses and flowers on the path leading from the couple's home to the beach itself... everyone commented that you couldn't have wished for a better day.