Archive for the ‘earth spirituality’ Category

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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A Local Druidry

What would a local Druidry look like if I built it from the ground up, from what I can perceive today, right now? What do I bring to this moment? What does this moment bring to me?

daffodils waiting, saying more than any blogpost can …

After all, Druidry begins like most spiritual paths with “Here I am — here we all are. Now what?”

One of the most obvious things we can acknowledge and celebrate is day and night. A walk at sunrise and sunset. Standing in the doorway or at a window, facing east at dawn or early morning, west at sundown or in the early evening. A photo or picture on the wall, a small shrine to the direction. A prayer, song, chant, charm or rhyme, for these times, or for just after waking, just before sleep. Write/collect a set of them, to vary them according to season or month or intention.

We learn to “curate our consciousness”. Because if I don’t, plenty of others will jump at the chance, telling me how to feel, what to think, what to buy, where and how to live. (Half of Druidry is exploring ways of using my life for the best purposes I can choose.)

What does this attention bring me? What do I see and hear, feel and smell and touch? What touches me?

crocuses crocusing

Perhaps some other part of the cycles of your life interests you, or draws your attention. Maybe your lunch-hour or midday is most significant in your schedule. Or perhaps returning home each day after work. The specific rhythms of our lives offer an excellent place to offer honor and gratitude for their gifts, to acknowledge exchanges of energy, to honor the life in them. They’re ours, after all — we’re unique beings in unique circumstances, so why not build our practice from these experiences?

We may justifiably rebel from the ordinary, the mundane and humdrum and commonplace — until we find a key to transform them.

Waiting for that key … If you’re like me and practically everyone else on this planet, we can be quite passive toward our own lives, waiting for “something to happen”, till we begin to see how much we shape our experience by assumption and attitude and attention. A small step toward “making things happen” will have effects all out of proportion to its beginnings. Doubt it? Try it out and document your experiences. Yes, you’re on your way, a key in hand.

What keys are the apparent, mundane, ordinary facts of my life trying to hand me? Where am I turning them away? Again, rather than judgment, treat it as the story-line out of a fairy-tale. “I am the seventh child of the seventh child, and this time I will take the key … when all my sisters and brothers and cousins turned away …” Because right now the key awaits in the most unlikely likely place.

“The highest good is like water” — Tao Te Ching

What am I looking at right now, and does it deserve my attention, my time? What can I shape and beautify and charge with my desire and intention and joy? Because if I don’t, I’m simply yielding the floor to the desires and attentions of others, and they’re almost never more fitting for my life than my own. Not wrong, or bad or “evil”, necessarily — just not as appropriate. Bless them and let them go. Apply a triad to actions, a “sieve for consciousness” like one attributed to Rumi: “Is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?”

Sifting priorities. The time I spend online can be a sample illustration of this powerful tool. Because it affords a magnificent and piercing sieve of my actions and intentions and will. Let me log on consciously, with a blessing on my interactions. Let me stay as long as I need to, in order to check in with those I care about, to make worthwhile posts and comments. Let me pass by any distractions that don’t serve me. No judgment, just choice in action. Let me log off with another blessing.

The weather both today and seasonally invites me to other celebrations. Beltane in the wings …

Full moon, waxing, waning, new — we can also make attention to our sister planet part of our Druid practice, if we choose. What phase of the lunar cycle calls to you? Or if none do, pass by, without judgment, to where you are called.

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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!

What Does “Beyond 101” Look Like?

And how can I recognize it when I encounter it? [Looking for a different take? Here’s another post of mine on the subject from August 2020.]

Part of the “recognition challenge” we may face is that “Beyond 101” can vary so widely from person to person. (That’s a good thing.)

Stick with Druidry long enough — as with any path with heart — and you’ve already entered “Beyond 101” territory. Maybe slipped in without even noticing. Almost certainly no welcome committee, no flags or fireworks. Of course, if that’s true of you, then you’re probably not asking what Beyond 101 looks like, because you’re busy doing it. From time to time, though, you may well ask the question as you stand on this side of the border, just like the rest of us mortals.

If I start by looking at some of the practices I list in “Druiding without (an) Order“, I can get a first approximation of what at least some of the “Beyond” landscape may look like, because that’s where those practices lead to. Druidry helps us grow into ourselves, to bloom and blossom in season.

And if I look at my own singular and not-particularly-representative journey, much of what I discover, to use another suitably Druidic image, is a spreading root system. One thing leads to another — “knowing how way leads on to way”, Robert Frost puts it.

So these are two directions this post will take, or two themes: where beginning practices may point us, and what I can conclude from my own “decade in Druidry” and forty years on another path.

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Druidry starts where we do.

Druidry eases us open to encounter.

In some ways, Druidry takes us through the musical of our own lives: “I love you, you’re perfect, now change“. So do most spiritual paths worth the walking which connect us to an Other or Others. One difference is that Druidry acknowledges changes will happen regardless, because they’re characteristic of our existence here and now. Life initiates us without our say-so. And so we can learn to sail the winds of change, or be buffeted more than needs to happen. (Sometimes it looks like both at once.)

Druidry points us toward the natural world as a guide and image for what living is like, what it can be, where it can take us, and how to experience all these things more richly and deeply.

Following the first path of the 13 starting points from my “Druiding without (an) Order” post above, if I “learn the trees and plants, birds and animals of my region”, I may well become an herbalist, a healer, an environmental activist, a workshop leader, a teacher, and so on. Druidry can help me activate potentials.

If I opt for “Path Number 2”, and set about learning all I can about a subject, self-taught perhaps because no one else exists who can teach me, or because my life has taken a turn away from the class-and-credential route others may follow, such knowledge will again take me where I may not have foreseen, into encounters with people or places or ideas I wouldn’t have imagined before I began. Druidry can help me navigate new directions and opportunities with its tools and practices. In the process, I may learn to appreciate and value the difference between head-knowledge and heart-wisdom.

Some who turn to follow Path 3 will become Bards: singers, musicians, performers others recognize for their art. Some may remain inward Bards, alive to word and song, but unknown except perhaps to partners, family, close friends — and sometimes not even to these. (Perhaps only a garden, or god or goddess, knows what the awen says to you.) Or this path may lead variously to a life of travel and performance, to teaching the instrument of your Barding, to supporting the rituals of your group or grove with word and melody and chant, and so on. What will you do with the song in your heart?

With just these three paths, you begin to see some of the varied forms that Beyond 101 can take.

Almost always, Druidry will help enliven in us the impulse to explore more than one path, though a particular path may call more strongly, and become a dominant theme during a lifetime. “Beyond 101” is, often enough, a series of “taking up a new direction”, but with the wisdom of the practice of one path there to guide and guard you, and to deepen as it does so.

And what of following more than one “larger” path, Druidry and Christianity, or Druidry and Medicine, or Buddhism and Druidry, and so on? As with all our close relationships, they will enrich us, train us (and strain us!), taking us to new places.

I’ve discovered over time how if my practice of one path goes dormant, or even feels lifeless, exhausted, or at some frozen stopping-point or impasse, the other path can help, may paradoxically intensify, compensate, engage me in new ways, or open up insights into the other path. Walking two paths has reduced the blind spots I might otherwise experience on either path. That’s rarely a comfortable experience, however desirable it seems from the outside — and proves to be.

Druidry, like any other path, can’t “save” me — but my practice of it can.

Often when we seek something “beyond 101”, we’re looking for inspiration, kindling, a pathway through an apparently lifeless winter landscape. Or some indication of what’s going on, what’s shaking loose, where to put attention and energy — or where to conserve them. Divination remains popular because we want to “know the future” — not so completely that no surprises remain in life, but so that the pace of change doesn’t swamp and overwhelm and drown us.

Those in our groups and groves and circles of friends who frequent the terrain beyond 101 may not immediately stand out to us. They may fall silent around the talkers and gossips. They may sit off by themselves with one or two others, or they may seem “perfectly normal” or utterly quirky and eccentric.

C. S Lewis wrote in his Space Trilogy: “I happen to believe that you can’t study men; you can only get to know them, which is quite a different thing”. In our quest for Beyond 101, frustrated at our capacity to sense the terrain ourselves, we turn to those who look like they walk it, or claim to do so. Then we may strive to imitate them, reading their books, attending their workshops, in some cases lingering with them to swim in their charisma, catch their vibe.

The paradox arrives in our discovery that the tools they provide, the models and examples they put before us, if they are worthy teachers and mentors, ultimately show us not who they are, but more of ourselves, and how to fulfill who we are — slowly, slowly — becoming.

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Image 1: Pexels.com; image 2: front yard

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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Artful Answers

Many of you may know author and artist Julia Cameron, whose The Artist’s Way and associated books have justifiably won her devoted readers. Here’s her entry for January 26 in The Artist’s Way Every Day*:

“Art is a form of the verb “to be.” It is not mere cleverness to point this out. At its core, life is artful and creative, each moment contains choice as much as each brush stroke in a painting, each syllable in poem, each note in a melodic line. It is because of this, its insistence on choice, that art demolishes the victim position. When bullying life demands of us some injustice: “You want to make something of it?” the artful answer is yes.

What will I make of it? The challenge for anyone alive is to re-win this artful approach every day. When I managed to center myself in it yesterday, felt its truth in my marrow, and marveled at the doors opening because of it, I sleep and wake and there it is to be re-won the next day. Now if I make a practice of it, a momentum builds over time that I can draw on — water from a well. Some days it does indeed come easier. Almost without effort there are days when I can slip back into the pose, the stance of it, like a martial arts kata. Ah, there it is again, my blood sings.

And Druidry is simply one way to do this, among many. One of the signal advantages of Druidry is that it hauls around substantially less baggage than many older spiritual paths. What was once an artful answer in many traditions has too often solidified into dogma. You must believe it, rather than practice it to find out if in fact it actually works for you. And if it doesn’t work for you, you’re bad, evil, lost, sinful, worthless, a loser, trash, garbage, rubbish, broken, useless — take your pick of abuse. Many of us have.

An artful way can be a long one. In truth it should be a long way — a lifetime’s way. Because in the end it’s the only way survivors end up traveling, each in her own way. Not my way or the highway — nothing like that. No, you find what works for you. Something is always coming to birth within us. No one else can do that work for me. Others can cheer me on, and I love them for that. They can walk with me part of the way, and I’ll cherish them for their company. They can write blogs and books, offer workshops, help us rekindle the fire when it’s fallen to ashes. They can sing to us, feed us, hold us when we cry, and remind us You got this.

Druidry from its early modern re-conceptions has (mostly) tried to be artful. Rather than a doctrine, it offers a toolkit, a spice-rack, a palette of colours. Rather than a creed, it offers songs, images, magic. Rather than priests, it offers bards. If it has weaknesses (and of course it does), one that comes to mind is a lack of spiritual guidance for those truly floundering and struggling. We have only to look at the prevalence of mental illness today and realize how many of us are suffering. Yes, individual Wise Ones can be found here and there — their own small local groups and groves know who they are. And while they can indeed offer wise counsel and compassion, most have no professional training in working with deep-seated and chronic problems. That time may come, but it is not yet now. The current stigma doesn’t cloak immorality, like it used to do. The current stigma instead clouds and paints mental illness with a most destructive brush. In a world already increasingly isolated by covid, the people who most need the rebalancing that often comes with human connection are deprived of just that necessity. Zoom and Skype and Facetime only take us so far.

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A strength of Druidry, one that’s often held out to people, is that it makes no requirements about beginning. You start where you are, with the circumstances you find yourself in. Yes, it’s true that as with internet forums, the requests for help that are often most successful are those that show the petitioner has put forth some effort already. That’s all the Druidry asks — that you actually try out some of its practices. Not believe what some of its spokespeople try to conceptualize on the basis of their experiences, but begin with my own practices that will lead to my own experiences. Then, when I come across the beliefs and concepts of others, I can begin to perceive something about the experiences that underlie them — because I’ve experienced some version of the same thing.

The tolerance that comes with that kind of recognition also gives us a place to start to work with others that springs from an inner authority others recognize. We can honor and respect another’s understandings because we’re still working on our own — in the same way. We refer it back to experience. The Land teaches me something new each season, though I’ve “been through” all four seasons many times already. My dreams show me wisdom in part because I’ve listened to them in the past. I look forward to celebrating Imbolc because I know that once again I’ll discover something valuable about Brighid, about the day, about my fellow Druids if I’m on Zoom, about early February in my particular place, whether I’m in a group or solitary.

The tree is silent because that’s the only way I can hear what it’s saying.

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*Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way Every Day: A Year of Creative Living. Tarcher/Penguin, 2009.

Imbolc in the Belly

I don’t know about you, but I often have a gut feeling about the seasons. Two weeks out, as you keep reading me write here. Around two weeks before one of the “Great Eight” festivals looms on the earth’s calendar, the coming celebration begins to kindle little fires in my peripheral vision. Imbolc, Imbolc. We notice things, it seems to us, simply because they’re notice-able, but our noticing makes them also makes them more pronounced, more prominent, more accessible to our awareness.

It’s a common enough experience: get a new car, a new dog, a new god, and suddenly you notice them all around you. This should (re)alert us to our realities. We’re seekers of saliency — biologists and psychologists try to keep this fact (a whole level of irony in that) in our awareness. “I’m going to pay attention to whatever stands out for me in my world, because that’s obviously what matters”. Yes — but hard and fast on the tails of that comes a potent corollary: what do I want to discover? What do I choose to empower with my attention? And what am I pushing away and refusing and denying, because it doesn’t fit — because it may well bring (the horror of it!) change. Answering such questions is enough to keep a Druid up nights.

I’ve learned to tell when things are stirring because I start to get snarky.

“But I don’t believe in _____ “. Doesn’t matter. Or at least it doesn’t matter that much right now. Invite some direct personal experience into your life, and what you believe may take a holiday, or hibernate, or explode. Or stay exactly the same. You said you were looking for some excitement, right? Time to spin the Belief Roulette wheel. Why not? We do it with absolutely every other part of our lives. Why should our beliefs be exempt? After all, they’re often the least reliable part of us. When I’m kissing an attractive Other, their lips matter a lot more than their beliefs. Kiss a god three times and watch your beliefs do a backflip.

Google the word Imbolc for its origins and you’ll get a range of learned and folk opinion. The possible meanings can each lead to fruitful meditation and ritual. Old Irish i mbolc, modern Irish i mbolg, “in the belly” — the soon-to-be-born lambs of the season. Oimelc, an alternative name dating from the 10th century, meaning “ewe’s milk”. Old Irish imb-fholc, “to wash or cleanse oneself”, consistent with this festival of purification. English Candlemas, St. Brighid’s Day. A holiday dating “from the Neolithic period”, Wikipedia tells us, with overlays and cultural additions over time, making for a splendid richness and depth.

Go outdoors, after or before you’ve Googled, or instead, and if you’re in the Northeastern U.S. you probably see new snowfall.

Back yard, 10:16 am this morning.

I can learn at least as much Druidry exploring the transformed landscape as I can pondering the possible origins of the word Imbolc. If you live in a different climate, the same holds true. Maybe not today, but yesterday, or tomorrow.

A lovely example of our Druidry at work and play, from an online post: Want to celebrate this snowy landscape, invite something of what’s happening to earth, trees, and sky into our homes? Bring in some snow, melt it, and water the houseplants and pot-herbs with it, a winter’s blessing. Make tea or coffee with it. Save some to asperge the house with on Imbolc, or ceremonially deploy it during your Zoom ritual.

Your song and my song of Imbolc may be different, winter-song, desert song, sea-shore song, tropical song. What matters is that we listen and hear them and sing them, aloud or silently.

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Greetings to Peru, newest visitor according to both the Flag Counter and WordPress analytics. Imbolc and Lunasa, Lugh and Brighid, linking the holidays as our planet is linked …

Midwintering

A recent post in a Druid forum asked about connecting with the natural world in winter, especially in regions where cold and snow make the outdoors less inviting unless you plan to stay active and warm hiking or skiing and so on.

Especially in cooler climates, winter draws us inward. That nudge to hibernate, to drowse and sleep and inhabit an in-between is a valid one, one we can honor and welcome, rather than resist, or apologize for, or feel somehow shamed by.

That inward focus can lead to celebrations and insights into nature through drawing, writing, music, crafting, etc. — arts that spring from our own inwardness, a whole world we often step past in the more outward-facing months of summer.

Even water drowses, moves slower, curves back on itself, dreaming of a thaw …

Planning a garden, celebrating each midday point in these short winter days, watching the dawns or sunsets, etc. can all be conscious acts of dedication and participation during winter. And incubating dreams, keeping a dream journal, working on projects or issues or questions through dreaming, including daydreaming and drowsing, can all be richly productive. Objects I’ve collected in better weather now matter more. They’re important to touch and handle frequently: stones, feathers, shells, bones, pieces of wood, etc. Contours and textures of our worlds.

And this physical touch and connection, especially now when we hunger for it during covid, can include pets, who mediate wonderfully for us with the natural world. So we talk with them, cuddle them, spend even a little time outdoors with them and watch them play in the snow, and perhaps rekindle the wonder of winter, even if we don’t choose to ski or snowshoe or hike or sled, toboggan or romp.

The natural turn towards inwardness accords with the dark and bright halves of the year. The “yang-ness” of much of Western culture prods us to give some account for ourselves, to justify our hours and days with productivity, with gains and forward movement and progress. If we’re to e-volve, we have to “turn outward”, the word itself tells us. But that’s just half of it.

Part of the natural rhythm that Druidry can help us re-establish is a more sane balance between outer and inner activity. Anyone who thinks trees and animals aren’t “active differently” in winter can apprentice themselves to the natural world to find out just what’s going on. This can be another winter activity — reading, study, inquiry, research, pondering, finding out for ourselves, as well as walking outside to smell the chill air, marvel at winter sunlight, catch all the hues of gray and white, light and dark, shade and sun.

These queries and thoughts are fitting for the new moon that’s upon us. We’re just emerging from the Dark of the Moon after all, into a New Moon. Lunar questions, lunar contemplations. The tree for the month, following the 2021 Lunar Calendar (www.thelunapress.com) is Luis, the Rowan or Mountain Ash. As I look on the Rowan in our front yard, I try to honor its lesson, follow its lead.

Rowan, as an image of winter’s inwardness, you do well. Hard even to make out completely, set as you are against a background of other trees. Barren, and with the camera’s foreshortening, looking like you sit directly under electrical lines.

Often it seems trees wait because they “can’t do anything else”. So it can be revealing to do a tree meditation, to listen to what is going on with a particular tree. Rowan isn’t worrying about winter, or considering the starkness of its branches against other trees, or the sky. Its sugars and life-sap have retreated from where its leaves were, but it’s no less alive for all that. I hold the Rowan twig I picked up a few years ago from a dead branch on the ground. I’ve used a woodburner to mark the Rowan ogham ᚂ on the stave, another step. On such seemingly small actions we can build steps and paths to further insight and connection.

Whether or not I “finish” a set of ogham staves, I have these gifts from several neighboring trees to hold and connect with and listen through. Rowan’s magic, magic of hemlock, oak magic …

One great gift of the Others like trees and animals (as well as people) who share our worlds is that they help draw us out of ourselves, when necessary. Caitlin Matthews’ wise book, Celtic Devotional, offers this short meditation for the Thursdays of winter: “I give thanks for the wise qualities of the evergreen trees that have stood by me this day: may you show me how my own heart can be evergreen and growing through winter’s doubt and darkness”.

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Matthews, Caitlin. Celtic Devotional. Fair Winds Press, 2004.

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 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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Nine Days of Solstice 6 — Friday

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

The series of pictures below illustrate the folds to make the 5-pointed Star. There are 9 folds, a good piece of symbolism, and then a single cut of scissors. It may take a few tries till it comes out right it. Start with a piece of scrap paper.

If you like, treat this as a “ritual of making”. As you practice the Nine Folds, try out a prayer, chant, rhyme, etc. This can be a fun exercise to do with a child.

AAAAA

You need a sheet of paper in the proportions of 8.5 x 10. Size is up to you. (For many, that’s almost a standard sheet of loose-leaf or photocopy paper, with the bottom 1 in/2.5 cm cut off.)

BBBBB

FOLD 1: Fold the sheet in half horizontally, top edge to bottom edge.

CCCCC

FOLD 2: Next, fold the sheet in half vertically, left edge to right edge, then open it again.

DDDDD

FOLD 3: Fold the sheet in half vertically, top to bottom, then open it up again.

EEEEE

FFFFF

FOLD 4: Fold the right edge in to the center fold, then open it again.

GGGGG

You now should have these guide-lines for the next folds.

HHHHH

FOLD 5: Fold the top left corner to the center horizontal fold crease.

IIIII

FOLD 6: Fold that same corner back on itself, flush with the left edge.

JJJJJ

KKKKK

FOLD 7: Fold the top right corner back on itself, in the same way. You should have two right triangles of the same size.

LLLLL

Turn the star over, back to front.

MMMMM

Here’s the vertical guide line for the next fold.

NNNNN

FOLD 8: Fold the star vertically to the right, back onto itself.

OOOOO

FOLD 9: Fold the top flap to the right, back onto itself. Then open it out again.

PPPPP

Turn the star 180 degrees, so the point faces down. The crease/fold about 1.5 in/3 cm above my thumb is an important guideline for the next step.

QQQQQ

Line up the scissors so you cut across the intersection of lines toward the point to the right.

RRRRR

SSSSS

After the cut.

TTTTT

Start to unfold the bottom piece.

UUUUU

The Star …

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Nine Days of Solstice 5 — Thursday

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

“Then came there a great snow, and so greatly it snowed as if a great fleece had fallen …” The Old English dictionary I use sometimes offers inscrutable abbreviations for its sources of quotations — in this case, simply “Nar”. But I love this description, and I’m (mostly) grateful to live in a region that experiences four distinct seasons.

18 in / 46 cm at 9:40 am this (Thursday) morning, and still coming …

Winter’s finally arrived, ghostly guest. Somehow the whiteness of the snow at winter solstice always feels to me like an outward image of the inner fire burning all winter long. We light it, or it kindles us, at Samhain, when it leaps to and from the inner worlds, and it accompanies us right through to Beltane. I gaze at a candle-flame for a few moments, until I sense something of that world, that companion.

Snow both obliterates and illuminates, like any proper fire. Sometimes the track of spirit, of the presences in our lives, can be difficult to discern. Let snow-fire — or as a friend might write it, snow-fyre — illumine the way, and things can clarify. We see by contrasts — a powerful lesson in and of itself. In these worlds, it can take snow for us to see better.

The distinctive horseshoes of neighbourhood animals, tire-tracks and human footprints

Do I step on prints made by those who’ve gone before me? Many four-leggeds do this naturally, rear feet landing nearly where the front have just been. Sometimes weather helps map the trail, the spoor of my predecessors clear to be seen. Other times I walk trusting that when I need to know, I’ll know. Way-showers, as I follow you, let me likewise help show the way to those who come after.

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I’m posting below the first page of a rough draft for a workshop. You might find the points helpful, as I do, when you assess where you already place your energies and attention, and consider where they best belong for you, as you look ahead to the coming year.

It feels right to close by repeating the opening from the above image, a piece of dearly-bought wisdom for many: “Your consciousness — your awareness — is ALWAYS the final judge of what is right and appropriate for you. Yield it to no one“.

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Nine Days of Solstice 4 — Wednesday

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

Sometimes we need to talk ourselves into our discoveries. That’s only fair, because we’ve talked ourselves out of them until now. When we listen to others’ counsel but ignore our own, when we look for dreams anywhere but in our own hearts, when we yield up our Sovereignty, precious possession, to anyone else, then in spite of a cosmos trying at every moment to get us to claim it, we just …

Ah, what to do with beings such as ourselves?

I turn to remembered wisdom, from a praying mantis, from a post in 2017: Often the best sacrifices are ones you can keep doing. The point isn’t burnout. Make it sacred, sacri-fice it, so you can make it sacred again.

One challenge of sacred time, of holy time, is re-integrating it back into what we are pleased to call our “daily lives”. Where to stash the spiritual uplift so I can draw on it when I really need it?

Part of the reason behind a spiritual practice is to help us begin to see just how the “mundane” is also absolutely overflowing with spiritual energy. (It’s another instance of easier said than known.) We need to re-charge, yes: so we can flow again. Or to put it another way, my ability to tune in to a seemingly “ordinary” interaction in line at the supermarket, or pumping gas, or climbing the steps at work can transform the apparently mundane into a spiritual connection. The “apparently mundane” in all its flatness and dullness is our workshop, laboratory, spiritual opportunity. Empty canvas.

It’s easy (or at least easi-er) to perceive and ride the spiritual currents during retreats, workshops, seminars, gatherings. Each of us throws our offerings into the common cauldron and voila! — energy stew. We sup from it throughout the weekend, workshop, gathering. Then I get to return, to practice during “everyday life”. I am transformer, I am catalyst, I am pathway in and of myself. It can always begin again with each of us. Oh, Spirit … just show me how again, one more time?

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One of the site searches over the past several days has been in Cyrillic, for звезда шаблон из бумаги zvezda shablon iz bumagi or “star pattern made of paper” as Google-Translate clumsily renders it. Cutting a five-pointed solstice star is an excellent seasonal craft, for reasons that deserve contemplation. We’ve got the planetary conjunction (link to an informative PDF by the Astronomy Club of Asheville, NC) or “great convergence” coming up on the 21st, along with the Solstice, we have the traditional association with stars at Christmas, and we know the star or pentagram is a spiritual symbol with a world-wide spread long preceding modern Pagan associations.

So without further ado, here’s the clearest and most useful guide I’ve yet found for creating a near-perfect 5-pointed star from paper, with a series of folds, and a single snip of the scissors.

https://www.origamiplayer.com/orimath/embed560.php?ori=betsyrossstarfroma4

After all, it’s Day Four of this series — four the number of manifestation.

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I’m looking for a sheet I made for a workshop, with similar instructions — if I find it, I’ll post it on Day 5.

Prelude to Nine Days of Solstice

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

As I did during the Samhain season this year, I’m planning a solstice series to honour Nine Days of Winter Solstice, starting tomorrow, Sunday 13 December, and continuing through the Solstice on the 21st. Because writing is one of my principal spiritual tools, it helps me deepen my awareness and gratitude for the gifts that are given to us each day, in the midst of all the tumult and discord we see around us on this planet. Without those gifts, our experience would be far more grim and difficult.

ice on our evergreens

Is there an “official” Nine Days of Solstice? No and yes. You can always find people asking questions like that. Sometimes it’s newcomers, wanting to “get it right” which is an impulse we can celebrate. But nobody needs permission for such things. Who would give it? The Ancient and Noble College of Druids? That’s fun to imagine — maybe a plot detail for a fantasy novel. How about a national government? Not for decades, if ever. And what would “official” mean? Wider recognition? Signs and decorations in public buildings? TV specials? News anchors on cable wishing each other “Happy Solstice”? Human interest stories about how others celebrate the Nine Days? Official lighting of candles or torches at public venues on each each of the Nine Days?

Yes, there could be pleasant acknowledgements of the season, ways to introduce children and young people and the Druid-adjacent and Druid-curious to its rhythms and dynamics. But the end-of-year holiday season is already crowded enough with numerous cultural events and celebrations. Many Druids already acknowledge and celebrate one or more other traditions. I find that acknowledging the days around a seasonal festival can provide useful private space for reflection and re-dedication. If the Nine Days of Solstice became a “thing” — if others celebrated it, too — that’s fine. But the initial impulse for me comes as an inner signal to pay attention.

Which, as someone said in an online forum recently, is 3/4 of Druidry.

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Maa-usk and Taara-usk — Estonian Paganism

Indigenous spirituality draws its strength from what makes it “indigenous” — it comes from inside, not outside. It arises naturally on the land where we live, in the daily and sacred encounters people experience who live there. We breathe it in the air, and drink it in the water. No founder or prophet needs to arrive to announce its truth; no sacred scripture needs to proclaim its right way to live. These are other things, not “wrong”, but also not the same thing: they’re rooted in belief rather than practice.

We start where we are, by paying attention. That’s one reason so many common elements exist world-wide in indigenous forms of spirituality — why elders from different tribes, communities and nations can gather together and recognize in each other similar experiences of the power and spirit of place. They can speak with “one voice” because the Land does. It says similar things wherever we live. Listen! Do you hear its Song?

The Jumiois, a stylized cornflower and a symbol of Estonian nature spirituality. It is also the logo for the research and preservation efforts of Maavalla Koda “House of the Native Land”

I’ve written before about Romuva, the indigenous Lithuanian spirituality. To the north of Lithuania and Latvia, due south of Finland across the Baltic, lies Estonia, with its own flavours in Maausk “land-faith” and Taarausk “taara-faith“.

Like many of the nations that once comprised the Soviet bloc, with the fall of communism and its official atheism, Estonia enjoyed a re-opening to older native traditions and a revitalization of its national culture. Because a significant part of indigenous spirituality is “paying attention to where you live”, it’s also possible for humans to ignore place for a time, but that doesn’t cause place to disappear or cease to matter. For the same reason, we can always re-connect: it’s still there.

Entrance to Taamealusa Hiis, a sacred site (hiis) near Samma, Estonia, May 2019. / Photo courtesy of Religion News.

Encounter and learn the local gestures and practices, and you keep finding links to practices elsewhere. Sometimes journalists who help raise awareness about such connections are themselves perplexed by them, even as they report them. “While pagan and folk religions may seem archaic to the wider world, they are thriving across the Baltic states” notes a writer for a 2019 Religion News article. But often the “archaic” is part of just what people are seeking — something profoundly, instinctively human that we’ve been doing for centuries and millennia, out of a timeless natural awareness that the sacred is all around us. In that sense, the “archaic” is indeed “thriving”:

“Hiis” means “sacred grove” in Estonian. Past another wooden board with a runic symbol carved on it — it is customary to knock on this board — is a green clearing where visitors have tied ribbons around trees and placed eggs at their bases as a gift and left the dark remnants of a fire.

“All that is brought there has to be eaten there or burned in the ritual fire,” said 28-year-old Tõnu Rehela, who has been a member of Estonia’s nature-oriented, neopagan Maausk community since he was 16. “Through the fire, the gods eat. Through the holy tree, the gods drink.”

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