Drought and Incubation: Prologue


Do you ever get those moments where you suddenly feel as if you’re floating above your body, watching events unfold? And this detachment is an undeniable sign that you’re making a decision which will change your life?  That you’ve come to a turning point, and if you accept what’s being set out in front of you, not just your life will change, but your entire worldview?  Sometimes it’s hard to heed that little bit of stillness, to realize the import of the moment as it’s happening.

I was driving up I-95 and listening to DruidCast, when Damh the Bard’s voice wafted over the podcast app, talking about the amazing upcoming Celtic exhibit at the British Museum. My gut tightened. This was one of those strange moments where time seems to stop and stretch out, and I knew, absolutely knew, throughout every cell of my body, that I had to go see this exhibit. That is was vitally important, for Reasons I couldn’t understand, but which were plainly being communicated through my visceral reaction to the description of the show.

I asked for the time off work and that was no problem. I asked my ex-husband if he could watch our son for a few extra days, and that was no problem. Getting cheap plane tickets? No problem. In fact the lack of problems throughout this whole enterprise was somewhat miraculous. The biggest “problem” that I’ve encountered with this trip has been an inability to write about it after the fact.

I bought tickets to the museum exhibit online, and based upon the reduction in airfare I could get staying a couple of extra days (an extreme hardship, I know), I decided to try to incorporate a trip to Wayland’s Smithy.  Wayland had been a guide throughout my time in the Bardic Grade and continues to be a presence in my life, yet I had never been to his sacred site.  I ordered a couple of books from the local library about hikes along the Ridgeway and the various Neolithic monuments, including the Smithy, scattered throughout the area.  My excitement grew with each passing day as I planned out bus routes, walking routes, metro routes…ley routes.  I hadn’t traveled by myself in well over ten years, the last time being in Athens, Greece during the Olympics. What began as a simple visit to the British museum had become a sacred pilgrimage, not only to London and Primrose Hill, but along the Ridgeway and through the Vale of the White Horse. By gods, I was going to make this an adventure!

When I mentioned my plans to my Grove Mother one day over tea, she immediately suggested that I stay with friends of hers (L. & B.) in Oxfordshire–who in turn were a bit horrified that I was planning on walking the entire Ridgeway–from bus stop to Smithy to the White Horse itself–in January.  To be clear, it wasn’t the walking itself that struck them as a bad idea, it was the possibility of inclement weather! A few emails later, we had figured out a much more sensible itinerary, which would still allow me to walk the stretch along ridge between the Smithy and the White Horse, but which would also give me time to visit Avebury and West Kennet Longbarrow–something that would have been impossible in the original plan.

My Grove Mother also connected me with another Druid in London for a tour of the ley lines running through the city. He was actually our Grove Chief’s brother, and was as equally as generous as L. in helping me figure out what to see and where to go for a complete tour of esoteric London. In fact, he noted that the Air BnB where I would be staying was right on top of one of the major ley arteries running through the city.  He suggested I pay close attention to my dreams.

It feels odd to be writing about this trip so long after the fact. It was simply a tale that couldn’t be told right away.  Sometimes, an experience needs to sit by your fire for awhile, and you need to listen to its story unravel over time. Some gods and spirits just don’t reveal themselves on demand; they work on their own (seemingly geologic) timescales. Try to force them and, well, you may end up moving even more slowly just to prove you can be patient. The Smith, the White Lady, the Hunter, the Detective, and the Visionary all had lessons to teach on this pilgrimage. Perhaps now I will be able to speak them.





Peace in the Time of Towers

The subject of peace is a tricky one.  Peace, or frith as the Heathens call it, is foundational to Revival Druidry, born out of the conflict between Welsh and English.  In Iolo Morganwg’s “Call for Peace”, peace becomes a verb.

The Truth against the world,
Will you bring peace?
Your heart with my heart,
Will you bring peace?
Shout above resounding shout,
Will you bring peace?

Peace is not just something that you say, but something that you do (to paraphrase the words of the fabulously epic Kristoffer Hughes).  This call challenges us as Druids to bring peace in the face of a world which denies truth.  This call challenges us to stand heart to heart with one another, despite any arguments.  And this call challenges us to hold fast to peace, no matter the cacophony that surrounds us.

Ideals of peace cannot be an excuse for cowardice or avoidance.  The call to peace also does not abdicate one of responsibility to defend the helpless.  Listening to victims, believing their stories, letting them be vulnerable in their pain–these are all acts of peace and compassion even if they feel almost violent in the moment.  Understand that anger and fear are not antithetical to peace, but must be worked through and acknowledged before healing can begin.  Hold peace, preserve the space where conflict and disagreement can be aired and solutions can be woven from the ashes of difference.

Peace is not the easy road, and it does not mean a life free of aggression.  It does not mean avoidance of conflict or withdrawal from the world.  Indeed, an intimate knowledge of physical violence is helpful to understanding peace, and just how dear its price can be.  I practice a style of northern mantis Kung Fu.  It is a martial art, an art of war, an art of harming others no matter how much some might want to pretty it up as “self-defense”.  The notion that I would allow family to be harmed in the face of a physical attack is ludicrous.  If I have the means to keep them safe, I will.  I value their lives above my own ideals of non-violence.  If I’m brutally honest, I value my own life above that of an attacker.

Yet it is not a choice to be made lightly.  Every time we stand in front of the altar in the training hall, we repeat an oath: patience and control. It is quite literally the Chinese character for fire flipped upside down.  A fire banked and fully mastered is a useful tool that we control rather than the other way around.  What could be more fundamental to the fostering of peace than complete agency over one’s own violence?

As a Druid, I pray for peace.  I pray for peace daily.  In these Tower Times, I pray for peace, and prepare for conflict.  For “those without swords can still die upon them.


I Love My Grove

Have I mentioned that recently?

I. Fucking. Love. My. Grove.

Friday we started brainstorming for opening and closing rituals at East Coast Gather. There was mind-mapping, spitballing, chocolate tasting, silliness, synchronistic moose, and the burn of Awen across our tongues and minds.

Saturday the work continued (though I wasn’t there). Hammering of details, wordsmithing, logistics, and costuming lists furthered the process. Friends coming into their own, growing so beautifully.

Today was editing, polishing, tweaking…followed by a fabulous evening at one grovie’s paint bar. And again the Awen flowed.

Not everyone is suited to group work. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be near a community that fits them all the way to the soul. If you find your tribe, hold fast, nurture it, love it deeply.

In this I am fortunate, and I count these blessings every day.

Loosing Strife, Druid-Style

9594875574_9417ba690fThe purple loosestrife just started to bloom down by the brook. It’s an undeniably spectacular plant, bringing color to parched summer meadows and brook edges.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it blooms in the hottest months.

That’s when strife’s stranglehold needs the most loosening, after all. Violent crime rates, including those for aggravated and sexual assault, notoriously spike up to 12% higher during the hot summer months. But that’s just the general yearly (sadly predictable) increase in violence and irritability.

And now there’s the added complication of climate change coming into play.  An interesting article published in Science back in 2013 explores the influence of climate change on human conflict. From the abstract:

We find strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world. The magnitude of climate’s influence is substantial: for each one standard deviation (1σ) change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%. Because locations throughout the inhabited world are expected to warm 2σ to 4σ by 2050, amplified rates of human conflict could represent a large and critical impact of anthropogenic climate change.

The times, they are a-changin’. Culture (rednecks taking up arms against white supremacy?) climate (iceberg the size of Delaware?), certainty (Social Security? Don’t bet on it, you entitled Millennials)–they’re all a-changin’.  Stability comes with a price as old as Cain and Able and we’ve repeatedly sacrificed resiliency for efficiency and profit.  There comes a point when the supply lines are so fragile that any shift will cause catastrophic changes. The Tower will tumble.

Amidst the almost nostalgic mobilization of “grassroots” and “drops in the ocean,” loosestrife can help ease our families and communities through these changes. Allying with loosestrife can help you bring peace to your three feet of influence.  It’s one of the plants I use magically on a regular basis during the summer, a charm to ease anxiety and tension. A vase or two of the flowers in your home will help mitigate the rising tempers that inevitably come with August heat. Or, see what it does for you on the rush-hour subway.

Loosestrife is invasive. Loosestrife changes the land, one of the plants of Tower Time.  It continues its steady expansion across the marshes, pushing out native species. Yet what we called “manifest destiny” for our white European selves, we decry in a plant as being “alien” and harmful to the status quo.  One of those “damned immigrants” taking other plants’ jobs. There is a touch of irony that a plant named “loose strife” has inspired such a crusade against it.

It’s no esoteric accident that purple loosestrife has proliferated in a time of such conflict. Loosestrife’s march is a warning, and a needed ally.  If we are to bring her back into balance in our ecosystems, we must also master the same imbalance within ourselves.

Don’t hate the mirror that reflects your own shortcomings.

Balancing the Fourth Power

Since my trip to the Smithy over 18 months ago, it seems Silence has wrapped itself around me.  As much as I wanted to write about the experience of that pilgrimage, the words wouldn’t come–so much so that when I tried to force myself with the artificial deadline of a scheduled essay, I then forgot about that deadline, and had an unfinished post be published as a result!

Sharing knowledge and experience is essential to regrowing polytheistic paths and perpetuating mystery traditions. But how much is too much?  I think in the age of instantaneous communication, we speed too readily towards the sharing of our most profound experiences.  The desire to turn UPG into PCPG (peer-corroborated personal gnosis) can lead down into a dark, dark rabbit warren of group-think and egregores.

Indeed, in my more trusting youth I shared things with online acquaintances that I should not have, dreams and visions I should have kept close and let incubate and inform my practice, things which ultimately were relevant to me and me alone.  Sharing them diluted their power and in some cases, even led to the hijacking of those experiences by an echo-chamber effect of well meaning, but ultimately erroneous co-religionists.  I craved external validation, as if that would somehow make my experiences more real, more acceptable.

It has quite literally taken years to sort out what was real and true, and to find my way back into a coherent practice.  Thank gods for the work of the Ovate grade and for the wonderful real-life Grove members, friends, and neighbors who helped keep me steady and grounded throughout the untangling process.  Community and acts of service are the touch-stones that keeps the cunning folk from sinking into delusion and madness.  Without them, we are lost.

The Four Powers of the Sphinx, sometimes called the Witch’s Pyramid, consist of the oft quoted “To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Shut the Fuck Up Keep Silence.”  I’ve stood at the edge of Silence for long enough now, I think.  Going forward, may I have the wisdom to know when to write, when to speak…and when to STFU.