Pagan Paths

Profundity, profanity and frivolity; the business of serious thinking and joyous expression through the wisdom and traditions of the Celts in the company of Kristoffer Hughes, Head of the Anglesey Druid Order.

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Taw – Finding Stillness

I’m a rather busy Druid, however well intended I am and regardless of my attempts at time management, I find that I am oft surprised by the speeding passage of time. As I write these words of black on a screen of white, I glance over the top of my PC screen onto the late winter landscape of the little island that I live upon, and I consider – where on earth did all the time go? It feels like Midwinter was only a couple of weeks ago, Hen Galan – old Welsh new year – merely days ago, and yet a month has shot by. At times I feel like I hit an oil patch at 23 and I am now skidding uncontrollably towards the grave, and the brakes are off!

But you see, I’m not just a Druid, I have other tags that sit casually upon my shoulder, like so many of you reading this post I have a plethora of identities struggling to find moderation in a busy life. For those of you who are not familiar with me, permit me an indulgent moment as way of introduction. Indeed, I am a Druid, and head a small but busy Druid Order in Wales. I also write books on Celtic mythology, Paganism, death, dying and bereavement. That concoction may well have you scratching at your head, a scratch that hopefully will desist when you realise that I also work for Her Majesty’s Coroner in morgue, autopsy and bereavement services. I am also a part time actor on Welsh language television. All of this combined with teaching death midwifery, understanding bereavement, and experiential Druidry courses is sometimes rather bewildering, and leaves me often feeling as my grandmother would say – not knowing my ass from my elbow!

But suffice for now, that is enough about me, lest one must smear narcissistic butter round the doorframe to get my head through it!

At the heart of the Druid mysteries swims the Awen, the rays of inspiration that give expression to the Universe (I shall explore this a little further in future posts). The river of Awen runs eternally, but sometimes the mere act of being human causes one to stand at the banks of that river, aware of it yes, observant of it – yes. But immersed in it fully? Perhaps not. In the past I regularly found myself facilitating courses, rituals, writing, being engaged with the Awen and yet at times neglecting to be immersed in its current. I am human, and sometimes not the perfect spiritual specimen that I would like to be. I am sure that many of you reading these words can empathise with the fact that a busy schedule can overwhelm and bewilder our spiritual intentions, however well intended they are.

In addition to Awen, another important tenet of Druidry is Hedd (pr. HEH-th - the ‘th’ sound is pronounced as the ‘th’ in the) which can be translated as peace, finding it, maintaining it and disseminating it, and one of the tools we have to explore this concept is Taw (pr TAH-oo), translatable as a deep inner silence, stillness and peacefulness. The concept of peace and its importance to Druidry is not simply the external expression or desire for peace alone, but rather how Hedd transforms the internal constitution of the individual. And to achieve this we utilise Taw.

In the Welsh language the term Taw can be seen as a component of a myriad of words that express its spirit such as distawrwydd (quietness), tawelwch (tranquillity). Taw allows us the opportunity to be still, to find an inner silence where eventually the busy chatter of the human mind is hushed temporarily. Taw is traditionally engaged with outdoors, within the natural world. It is a process by which we consciously stop, settle and disengage with the humdrum of ordinary life. In Taw, we start by observing our surroundings, and flooding our senses with all the available data that bombards us. The sounds of the elements, the whispering of trees, distant traffic, the light of stars, the sound of crashing wave. We permit it all to infiltrate the senses like a symphony, attempting as we do to not isolate any particular sound or instrument. In Taw we stop, we are not actively listening to the Gods or to the spirits of place, we are not offering prayer, but rather moving into a state of simply being, of finding stillness, Taw leads to Hedd.

As the state of Taw progresses we cease to know where we end and the ground beneath us starts, in Taw we find the stillness and peace of our centre, of our origination, of our place within the river of Awen. We take time out to be, not to do. Doing can happen later, doing is what we ordinarily do, Taw allows us to stop, to return to our factory settings if only for an hour, a couple of times a week. To be refreshed by the flowing rivers of inspiration. Taw is not something we do together with our communities and groups, but something we do for ourselves. Spirituality is not all about expression, but also about being at home with oneself. To know oneself. The insights from being in the state of Taw arrive in hindsight, and they can be profoundly transformative and enriching.

Taw instils within me a state of tranquillity amidst the drama of my life, a time out of time, a place to find the Hedd within myself. For Hedd to be expressed within the world it must first start with me. The term Taw can be expanded upon with the premise of Tawaf (pr. TAOO-av), which is to hold one’s peace, and even one’s tongue. We can do much to instil Hedd in the world, but sometimes the act of screaming and shouting at the world can be ineffective and counterproductive. Hedd will imbibe Hedd. It is difficult at times to know when to hold one’s peace, and in contrast, hold one’s tongue, and when to express it, this is sagacity, and that sagaciousness comes from the practice of Taw. To know what ticks ones clock, what triggers invoke certain responses and why.

What I love about the practice of Taw is that it’s not rocket science. I do not need the accoutrements of ritual, albeit please don’t get me wrong, I adore accoutrements! But my head is sometimes so busy, even in meditation, that I may have the sense of a task or duty. Taw tames the Drama Queen in me, and also enables me to understand the Drama Queen that resides within me. It is something I do for me. Consequently the passage of time and all the busyness does not overwhelm me as it used to. Taw takes me into nature, to be of nature and an inexorable aspect of nature.

Taw is when I sit in the woods, or on the edge of my local beach, with starlight painting dreams in the night sky. Within it I sit in the delicious currents of Awen and allow it to flow through me. What sense I make of that comes later. How can I hope to bring Hedd into the world if I cannot find the Hedd within myself? If I cannot inspire myself, how on earth can I inspire anyone else? I need Taw to cause me to remember who I am and what I am. You may have another name for the same thing.

And with that, I am away into the woods to find my Taw. May you find your own Taw; that place within you that is deliciously still and silent, and realize your Hedd.

Be radiant, be joyous, be inspired.

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Tagged in: druidism Druidry druids taw
Kristoffer Hughes is Head of the Anglesey Druid Order in North Wales. He is an award winning author and a frequent speaker and workshop leader throughout the United Kingdom, Europe and the USA. He works professionally for Her Majesty's Coroner. He has studied with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and is its 13th Mount Haemus Scholar. He is a native Welsh speaker, born to a Welsh family in the mountains of Snowdonia. He currently writes for Llewellyn Worldwide specializing in Celtic studies and death and bereavement.


  • Kathryn Gibson
    Kathryn Gibson Monday, 16 May 2016

    I am just dipping my toes in to Druidry, and have enroled in the Bardic course with the OBOD.
    Kristoffer, I love the way you make things a bit easier to understand (having bought To The Couldron Born) I find your writing informative but not too heavy going that I loose interest. I find the book an invaluable addition to help me with my OBOD coursework, but crikey, how do you manage such a busy work load? I think i'll call you Super Druid.
    Bless you, Kath.

  • Kristoffer Hughes
    Kristoffer Hughes Wednesday, 18 May 2016

    Ahhh thanks Kath, what a gorgeous message, that is so lovely. You are kind to share your words with me. Many blessings. Kristoffer /|\

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