Druid Heart: Honouring the Land

Living life from a priest of nature's perspective

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Joanna van der Hoeven

Joanna van der Hoeven

Author, poet, singer, dancer, blogger and activist, Joanna van der Hoeven (Autumn Song) is a Druid, Witch and Animist who honours the natural world around her and seeks to live with awareness and compassion. She has released seven books, including the best-selling The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid.
www.joannavanderhoeven.com
https://twitter.com/JoannavanderH

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Samhain: Ancient and Modern

Calan Gaeaf (Welsh) or Samhain (Irish) begins at sunset of 31st October and runs to to sunset 1st November according to most Western Pagan traditions. If working by the moon, it is the first full moon when the sun is in Scorpio. If working by the natural landscape, it is when the first frosts bite. Samhain was termed the Celtic New Year, as it marked the ending of one cycle and the beginning of another. The Celts reckoned their days from sunset to sunset, and so the start of the year would begin in the dark time at the beginning of winter. Samhain marked the first day of Winter.

Calan Gaeaf, however, is a time that is not a time, and therefore some Pagans honour this tide and season from 31st October right through to the Winter Solstice. It is a time after many things have died, and there is a stillness to the air, an Otherworldly feel in the silence. It's a dark time here in the UK, with long nights on our northerly latitude, and usually a very wet time as well. It's not hard to see how these months could be seen outside of time, outside of the cycles of life, death and rebirth.

Calan Gaeaf, Samhain, Hallowe'en, All Soul's Night - for many pagans this is the ending of one year and the beginning of another.  It is often seen as the third and final harvest - with the last of the apples harvested, the cattle were prepared for winter and the grain stored properly.  It is also a time when it is said that the veil between the worlds is thin, and the realms of the living and the dead are laid bare to each other. We are approaching the darkest time of the year, and the killing frosts and snows await just around the corner.  It is a time of letting go, of releasing into the dark half of the year, and getting rid of the dross in our lives so that we do not have to carry them with us through the long winter nights.  We consciously make the effort to live better, meaningful lives and let go of all that holds us back - our fears and worries, our anger and hatred.  We nurture the beneficial and the good that we have in our lives, ensuring that they are well kept for our plans to come at the winter solstice. So the cycle continues.

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  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    A very lovely and evocative description. Thanks for sharing, blessed be, Tasha

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Reaping and Sowing

It's good to know when all your training comes into play. The years of hard work you have put in. All the practice that I have done in Zen Buddhism, Druidry and other aspects of Western Paganism has greatly helped me during a very difficult week.

Breathing. It's amazing how much just focusing on the breath can calm the mind and the body. For the mind and body are one. What affects one, affects the other. Five focused breaths, in and out, feeling the air move through your nose, down your throat and into your lungs, expanding, and then back out in reverse. Concentration on this small action. The heartbeat slows, the mind has a pause to reset. And perspective floods in.

The cycles of life and death are one. It is ouroboros, the snake eating its tail, no beginning, no ending, only being. There is only energy, in different forms and degrees of manifestation.

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  • Suzanne Tidewater
    Suzanne Tidewater says #
    I appreciate what you've written. Bringing my mind back to my breath has been a powerful meditative practice!
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Lovely piece of writing and so very true. Thanks for sharing.
Lughnasadh and the State of Grace

Lughnasadh is upon us, and the farmers are anxiously looking to the skies for a few clear hours when they can harvest their crops of wheat in my area. It has been a hot, dry summer, and of course, just when the harvest is due to come in we get changeable weather with rain showers every day; not ideal when you need to gather in a crop like wheat totally dry, or else it will rot. So just like our ancestors, we look up and hope and pray for some dry weather, and for the farmers, that they’ve rented the combine harvesters on the best day for it, and not when it's going to dump it down halfway through their work.  

Things are unpredictable in life. It's just something that we have to accept. With a little grace, we can face the problems and triumphs, the highs and the lows with equanimity. Grace is a word that is little used today, but one which I think is important, and one that I've been trying to live each and every day.

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Rescuing the Druid

We all have our ups and downs in life, and these can certainly vary dependent upon many factors: genetics, environment, disposition, culture, upbringing and more. The Druid faces the same challenges as many others do in their journey through life; being a Druid is no different in what the world throws at you.

What is different is how you deal with what comes your way. That doesn't mean as a Druid you won't suffer from depression, or heartbreak, grief or anxiety. But the methods that we use to face these challenges helps us to understand ourselves, and each other, a little better, and learn where we fit in the holistic scheme of things.

I've faced many challenges in my life, and still continue to do so on a daily basis. One challenge that I faced over this winter was my love and enthusiasm for dance had gone. For the last six months, I was seriously considering quitting dancing altogether. For over a year the question of my love for it had been rolling around in my brain. Over the winter holiday period, I was this close to giving it up completely. In fact, I had made up my mind that upon my return to England, I would inform my dance class.

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Bullies and Re-membering

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  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    I pray for it and work toward it by being as kind as I know how to be--with discernment always as I am sure you do as well. My nex
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Bullying was very common in my grade school and I was the butt of much of it as I grew up. It did make me a very strong individual
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    It can make some people stronger, and it can utterly break others, like you said. We just need a little more kindness in this worl
  • Kim Campbell
    Kim Campbell says #
    I was bullied in 7th grade. It was so difficult to be ostracized by my peers based on the rumor of a "friend". It breaks my heart
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Technology can certainly be abused, no doubt about it. I think we have to look at healing the human spirit, so that it breaks the
Re-weaving the Connection Every Day

A large part of the work at Druid College is teaching our apprentices how to re-weave the connection to the land each and every day. We cover a wide-range of topics in doing so, from conscious consumerism,  political and environmental activism, daily and seasonal ritual celebrations and more. Our focus from our last weekend was on daily connection, how we can bring everyday actions into our practice, to make the mundane sacred; indeed, to highlight the fact that there is no such thing as the mundane. It's only in our perception.

Part of the homework given was to write an essay on how the apprentice can re-weave the connection every day. I thought I would share what I do with them, and you, in the hopes that it may inspire you on your path.

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  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Yes indeed!
  • Hunter Liguore
    Hunter Liguore says #
    Nice reminders of how to keep the day sacred--I think we can also turn this to the land, holding the prayer, as we pass by in a a

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