Archive for the ‘spiritual practice’ Category

Daily Practice — Druid & Christian Theme 7   Leave a comment

[Themes |1| |2| |3| |4| |5| |6| |7| |8|]

How do I keep the inward doors open? (How do I even begin to locate them and find their handles?) How do I pick up on subtle nudges? How do I hear the quiet inward speech of things — the “still small voice” as older versions of Christian scripture call it? We all get the big events — no need to go looking for them. They burst on the scene, kicking down the door a few times in a life, unmistakably loud and messy, whether good or bad, and usually a mix. But they break through, and everything shifts.

“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13).

With wind and earthquake and fire, how do we ever catch the whisper? And then, even if we manage to hear the “still small voice”, we may find that instead of resolution or insight or growth, we’re left with questions, like Elijah. Our own lives interrogate us. “What am I doing here? How did things end up like this?”

Most traditions urge a daily practice. As much of Christianity has become focused on belief rather than practice, it has lost much of what monastic practice has preserved. A site on Trappist monasticism notes:

The practice of lectio divina, (divine reading), is foundational to monastic life. So important is divine reading to the spiritual well-being of a monk that, traditionally, we devoted some of the best hours of the day to this practice. Lectio Divina is a discipline whose fruits are experienced over time. One needs to understand the practice and then commit to it with some regularity.

Practice matters. Not because it makes our lives “safe” or “easy”: no life is that I know of. If I think about it, most lives resemble the character throw in role-playing games (RPGs) like Dungeons and Dragons. You toss the game dice for talents, strengths and weaknesses. You may for instance roll a high intelligence, but your physical body is weak. You can’t rely on it. If you’re allowed to roll again, your strength, your vitality, may be high this time, but you’re none too bright.  Or on the third throw, both intelligence and strength come up high, but your temper makes your life a train-wreck of impulse and blame.

A daily practice helps build spiritual stamina. It’s something like what our grandparents and great-grandparents used to call “inner resources”, though they may rarely have shown us how to develop ’em. (Merely “following the rules” doesn’t usually help.) But they knew enough to recognize people who had them. (In RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, you can improve even weak qualities of your character over time, through experience. Funny thing!)

One of my teachers says that even if we could know the future, we’d have a hard time accepting just the good things to come in our lives. (That they might not always resemble “good things” from our present standpoint rarely occurs to us.) We build stamina over time, so that the big lifting is more manageable, and the daily lifting can become a small pleasure in itself.

A daily practice helps us hear that whisper, catch the still small voice. And that in turn can help us ride the worst of the big bad events, and make the most of the big good events (and little ones, too). And that can lead to all kinds of wonderful things. But the practice itself doesn’t deliver them. It catalyzes. It doesn’t guarantee.

One Druid I know makes it a point, whatever the weather, to visit a small outdoor shrine in his backyard each morning, before he heads off to work. He says a short prayer, or holds a meditation, makes an offering, etc. His practice builds over time, with things added or discarded. If, under pressure of a tight schedule or occasional family craziness, he misses his practice one morning, he feels the lack. But that in itself has deep value — it’s one way to recognize the value of a practice. It’s a good habit. The gods know we all cherish enough bad ones.

So working with the habit-forming tendencies we all have, we put them to work here and there. We start small. A daily practice can be a form of magic, of empowering ourselves to live more fully. Because really, what else is there? If we’re so sunk in difficulty that every day is a struggle just to survive, we’ve got nothing extra to share with anyone or anything. Our work is simply to endure. And sometimes that has to be enough. But beyond survival, one goal can be to spend our surplus as we choose, consciously, with intention. The goal is to find ways to get to a surplus in the first place, so we have something to spend, something to give back, to build on, to build up.

As Philip Carr-Gomm has written, “In a world sorely lacking in meaningful ritual, it can feel like a balm to the soul to engage in actions that are not obviously utilitarian, that are designed to help us enter into a deeper sense of engagement with life –- to give expression to our belief in a world of Spirit that infuses this physical world with energies that bring healing and inspiration.” If such ideas seem foreign or strange, that’s a measure of how far we’ve wandered from ways of living proven over millennia to help us make the most of our few decades here.

The Christian “Lord’s Prayer” is brief, and usefully so. Or if you’re a Catholic, the Rosary is comparably short. Most traditions offer short usable rites like prayers or visualizations. Along with similar prayers, OBOD Druids and others may practice a Light Body exercise.

Repetitions done mindfully can be remarkable in their effects over time, hard to describe until you try them out. Like any exercise, they build strength and stamina. We can propose to ourselves any number of fine practices, elaborate rituals, intense mystical exercises. But the small one we actually follow through on every day for a month will be the one that begins to convince us of its value, and of the value of a practice.

The key is to find what works, and what I can stick with. I keep a record. Did this for a week. Liked it. Kept it up for a year. Discarded it. Felt the lack. Picked it up again and added it back in to the mix a year later. Forgotten I’d made that experiment till I re-read my journal from that time.

Finding what works for me, ultimately, is a practice all its own, one of the most “practical practices” I can try.

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I’ll close with a Youtube clip of “Pirililou”, which as its description states, is

an old Gaelic Chant sung at the Western ocean’s edge to the soul of the departed, in the first days after death, to assist the soul travelling from this world to the next ones. It is said to imitate the call of a shore bird … a bird dedicated to Bridhe and St Brigit, who assist the birth of souls in this world as well as the next.

As a meditation before sleep (that practice journey we all make nightly), this kind of meditation can lead to deep insight. Have we, after all, been fully born into this world, never mind any other one? Playing (singing, composing) a short devotional song that moves you deeply, and listening (performing) with intention, can make for the beginning of a profound practice.

In practical terms …   Leave a comment

So what do all these high (and abstract) sounding principles in the previous two posts actually mean in practical daily life terms? They mean much to me because they’re part of my practice. Yours will be different.

I talk a lot on this blog about the foundational importance of a regular practice — I’ve learned the value of one from years of experience, failures and successes. Part of your unfolding practice can consist of crafting prayers and rituals and deploying them to help empower you daily — hourly, if needed. Here’s a fine and succinct example (shared with permission) from Catriona Hughes:

Water on my left, fire on my right,
Cleanse and shield me through this fight.
Earth below and sky above,
Help me greet the world with love.

A great deal of the post-election reaction in the U.S. among many has been (and continues to be) fear, blame, anger and grief. Unless these energy flows serve to cause specific and useful changes in our behavior, they wantonly squander our energy without giving us anything like a worthy return. We can give a true gift to ourselves and dedicate the same energies behind them to something we choose, not something reactive — dependent on another’s actions. Otherwise we’re not only left with fear, etc., but we’ve squandered what personal power we do have for that hour or day or month that could have shaped a creative and positive response, and seeded still more over time. Replacement is essential. Our psyches, like nature, abhor a vacuum. Clearing them is the first part. Filling them with what we, not others, choose, is a vital second step.

Something like Frank Herbert’s fine “Litany against Fear” in his Dune series of novels can also answer this need:

I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.  Only I will remain.

“Season to taste” fits a life even more than a meal. Find what actually works for you.

Build your own life first. Securing creative sources of shelter, heat, food and water answers our first animal and elemental needs. Ask for help from Spirit and the Four Quarters. Make a form and expression of gratitude part of that daily practice. Blessings and graces — bless the fire as you light it, the food as you eat it, the wind outside as it sweeps past you, the light from the sky as it pours down on you, the animal and plant life all around you, in every season.

Write, sing, dance these things–you choose. Window boxes with herbs or salad greens are within the capacity of all but the most physically restricted of us. Just having something green beside you in the winter months cheers the heart. Eating anything you’ve grown is a return you have gifted to yourself. Note its symbolic power as well — this accompanies any physical act and often matters at least as much to outcomes and influences.

Practices are just that — practice. Refine and adapt as needed. The “best practices” are ones that fit you and feed you. You’ll know this by the doing of it — and gain in confidence and self-knowledge when choosing future practices wisely and heart-fully.

Nurture relationships. Everyone has friends, family, pets, neighbors, co-workers, co-religionists, etc. who can accomplish more together than apart. You know best how to do this, when, on what scale, how often, in your own way.

Practice being an ancestor. Make a point of challenging your own perspectives, beliefs and practices so you can anticipate and ride changes more smoothly. Again, you know best how to do this. The coming days, years and decades will not slacken in the tests and challenges they will bring to us to face. Our ancestors survived their share — and we are living proof. We can do the same.

Know what matters to you, what you believe, what deserves your effort and love. Set it down in writing. Share it with those who matter to you. It may be a list or a theology or two or three practices you want in front of you, within a daily sightline, for a visual reminder as you go about your day. You choose.

Take stock and assess areas above (and others on your own list) — both those that continue to need more attention and those that already flourish and bring you energy and joy. Let your assessment focus on what you’ve learned and what your next steps can be. If you’re like most humans, you’ll benefit from putting these in writing and reviewing them regularly. Once a month — the full or new moon — is a sound time to do so.

There — the beginnings of a practice already, a focused response that will generate, I guarantee, positive results.

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Seven Things: How I’m Doing   Leave a comment

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Rhododendron in bloom in our front yard, loud with bees

Since I laid out “Seven Shoulds” for Druids in the previous post, it’s only fair that I should account for how, and how well, I myself manage to do them. Here goes …

1–”Druids should have a practice.”

Ha! I laugh ruefully, because I follow two paths. Sometimes that seems double the challenge. Who needs it? I sometimes think.

But I find that if each day I can manage a practice from even one path, it “spills over” to the other path. They link — a topic for a whole book, I’m beginning to suspect.

I “get credit” on both paths, to put it crassly. Yes, practicing for “credit” means I’m pretty much scraping the bottom of the awen (inspiration) barrel, but sometimes ya gotta go with what you get. Not every day is Lucas Industrial Light and Magic. (If it was, I’d fry and blow away.)

Having a practice also means keeping the ball rolling, the flame burning, even and especially when you don’t feel like it. Then the gift comes, luck turns things around, chance plays things our way, and a god or two peers at me directly for a moment. Because of our efforts? Not always directly, like calculating a sum in math. The universe is more than a spreadsheet. But without the practice, it’s funny how whatever luck and chance and grace and gift I experience will begin to dwindle, dissipate and drain away.

The Galilean Teacher observed, “Those who have will be given more, and those who have little will lose the little they have.” At first encounter, this piece of gnomic wisdom sounded to me like some kind of nightmare economics. Punish the poor, reward the 1%, and all that. But when I look at it as an insight about gratitude — a practice all its own — it starts making a lot more sense. Unless we make room, there’s no space left in us for more. We have to give away to receive. It’s neither more blessed to receive or to give. Both are necessary for the cycle to operate at all.

If I blog or compose verse or do ritual, if I chant or contemplate or visualize, if I love one thing freely without reservation or thought of what’s in it for me, I’ve reached out to shake hands with Spirit. I find that “energy hand” is always held out to us, but unless I offer my half of the handshake and complete the circuit, nothing happens. “What’s the sound of one hand clapping?” goes the Zen koan. More often for me it’s “What’s the greeting of one hand offered?” Pure potential, till I do my part.

2–”Druids should be able to talk about Druidry.”

If inspiration fails, I fall back on John Michael Greer’s fine lines to prompt me into my own “elevator speech”: “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” (1).

Of course, trot that out verbatim in reply to most casual inquiries, and you’ll probably shut people down rather than open up a conversation. I’m a book addict myself, but I don’t need to talk like one.

So here’s a more conversational version. “For me, Druidry means walking a spiritual path that’s based in the earth’s own rhythms. I try to take an experiential approach to questions big and small. That means I value inner growth and personal contact with nature and spirit.” I find something like that offers plenty of handles if anyone wants something to grab onto. It also has the Druidic virtue of consisting of three sentences.

3–”Druids should show their love of the earth.”

Sometimes this can be more far reaching than just what we ourselves do. Our choices reach more widely than that. Who we interact with also has consequences. We had a builder in recently to rescue our garage, which for every one of the eight years we’ve lived here has been sliding another half-inch down the slope of our back yard.

It took us a fair while to find him. Referrals and ads and word-of-mouth turned up people we eventually chose not to work with. But this fellow was different. Just one proof among several: his attention to reseeding the lawn and cleaning up construction waste after he’d completed the repairs helped us show our love of the earth through our choices of our interactions with others. We didn’t see or know this fully until after the fact, of course. But it was confirmation — the sign we needed. Some days it’s all we get to urge us to keep on keeping on.

I chose this example rather than any other because it was subtle in coming, though just as important as recycling or using less or any of the other things we try to do to “live lightly.” Druidry need not always “speak aloud” to have effects and consequences. Ripples spread outward, hit the far shore, and return. “What you do comes back to you.”

4–”Druids should keep learning.”

Many Druids made this a habit long ago. They have another book or five ready when they’re done with the current one. That’s me. It’s a competition, I’ve come to believe, who will win, my wife or me. She’s a weaver and has baskets and boxes of thread, heddles, wrenches, loom-parts, table-looms, tapestry manuals, and two car-sized looms, all striving for space with my shelves of language books, histories, Druidry and magic texts, boxes of novel and poem drafts, newspaper clippings, letters, and more.

But as J M Greer notes, “Druidry isn’t primarily an intellectual path.” Thank goodness! I’m saved from the limits of intellect, however well I’ve trained and domesticated it! Greer continues: “Its core is experiential and best reached through the practice of nature awareness, seasonal celebration, and meditation” (2).

Druids find themselves encountering people to learn from, the aging carpenter or herbalist or gardener who’d love for an apprentice willing to put in the hard work. So then we happen along and appreciate them and “apprentice for a moment” if not a decade. They’re often self-educated, regardless of what level of school they’ve completed. They seek out people to learn from, and recognize and honor the same impulse in others. Druidry, among all the other things it is, proves itself a wisdom path.

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Companion rhododendron in rose, always blooming a week later

5–”Druids should respect their own needs.”

Oh! This is sometimes so large it’s like the air we breathe all our lives, easy to forget. Rather than scold ourselves for lapses, failings and limitations, celebrate what we have done. “More than before” is a goal I take as a mantra. Even two steps backwards gains me some insight, however painfully won, if I look and listen for it. And it gains me compassion for myself and others in our humanness– no small thing. As a Wise One once remarked, who would you rather have around you, someone right or someone loving?

Some six years out from cancer surgery and radiation treatment and I still don’t have the energy I once did. I’m also that much older. But I can rage against and mourn new physical limits, or I can find work-arounds for what I need to do, and set clearer priorities for what really matters, so as not to squander what I do have. Sure, it’s still a work in progress. But I find I can detect small-minded attitudes and deep-seated prejudices in myself more quickly, and do the daily work of limiting their influence and filling their space with more positive thoughts and actions. That’s a gain.

Ever danced your anger? All emotions are energy responses. But I don’t need to sit and stew in them. I can use them to propel myself to new places and spaces and states. It’s an older-person magic, perhaps, or maybe just one I’ve been a long time in realizing and appreciating and practicing.

6–”Druids should serve something greater than themselves.”

Looking back at the list I included — “a person, a spirit or god, a relationship, a practice, a community, a cause, an ideal, an institution, a way of life, a language” — I realize I’ve served all of ’em at some point. Some people stick with one their whole lives. It becomes their practice.

Right now, underemployed as I like to say, I’m more of a homebody than I’ve been, and consequently around the house more. If I find myself sparked to annoyance or anger at my wife for some petty thing, as can happen in the best of relationships, I try to remember to serve her, to serve the relationship. Again, can I use my anger, rather than just seethe? Can I remember to bless my anger, transform its energy and spend it to uncover an underlying issue? What’s the pattern I’ve been feeding? Do I want or need to keep feeding it? Serve myself in this way, in the deepest sense, and I serve others, and vice versa. No difference. To paraphrase, all things work together for good for those who love something that lifts them out of smallness and limitation.

7–”Druids should listen more than they talk — and we talk a lot!”

I’ve certainly demonstrated that here in this post, to say nothing of this whole blog.

Fortunately, one of my go-to practices is listening. Do I do it enough? Wrong question. “Some — any — is more than before.” Both paths I follow commend practices focused on sound as a steady daily method of re-tuning, so that Spirit can reach me through every barrier I may erect against it. Chanting awen, listening to music that opens me, finding literal in-spiration — ways to breathe in what is needed in the moment — letting the song roll through me and back out to others in quiet daily interactions — these are the practices I keep returning to. Listen for the music, whispers my life.

The Great Song keeps singing, blessedly, through my intermittent disregard and obliviousness, till I remember to listen again, and join in.

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  1. Greer, John Michael.  The Druidry Handbook, qtd. in Carr-Gomm, Philip. What Do Druids Believe? London:  Granta Books, 2006, p. 34.
  2. Greer, The Druidry Handbook., p. 4.

Seven Things Every Druid Should Do   8 comments

 

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New growth on the tips of our south boundary pines

[Thirty Days of Druidry 28]

“Should” is such a polarizing word. I write it here as a reminder most of all to myself. “Who are you to tell us what to do?!” Well, what difference does that make? If my suggestions are good, follow them. If they’re not, don’t. In the end, “who I am” really doesn’t matter much, does it? I’m not putting it out there as a distraction, so why let it be one for you? A road sign on a road you’re not travelling doesn’t apply to you, does it?

Besides, if my suggestions are good, you’re probably already practicing them in your own way.

(The next post will account for how well I follow my own advice.)

OK, here goes:

1–Druids should have a practice. I’m not saying what that is or should be, only that we each need one. Finding one we can stick with and make our own can be a deal of work. But without a practice, we lose focus, we fail to hear the hints — from others, from the green world, from dreams, from study and learning, from the nudge that comes in the shower or taking out the trash — that help keep us in balance. Otherwise, how are we more than armchair or coffee-table druids?

2–Druids should be able to talk about Druidry. Not proselytize. Not necessarily give interviews, record podcasts or lead workshops, unless that’s our thing. But if someone asks, a door is opening, and we can have an “elevator speech” ready. You know, an account of what we do, and how it makes a difference in our lives. One or two sentences can be enough. Otherwise, if we can’t manage that much, why are we doing what we do?

3–Druids should show their love of the earth. How we each do that is part of our own unique practice. Like all things, we have our birth and our bloom, our fruit and our fallow time. Otherwise, how do our lives build and contribute to this world we say we love?

4–Druids should keep learning. Neither we nor the world stands still, and much is stirring in many fields of learning that can enrich our practice, our knowledge, our awareness and our ability to work with the energies of the world for good. Otherwise, how else do we honor what we have been given?

5–Druids should respect their own needs. Our existences are such complex systems, and it becomes very difficult to fulfill the potential of our lives if pain, anger, illness, injury, or weakness overtakes us. It can be equally difficult to do more than we’re already doing if we have lives we live fully, without adding more than enough and driving us to a tipping point of imbalance. We should seek to know ourselves well enough to respect our own boundaries and limits, while asking which ones deserve to be there as supports, corner posts, roof-beams and garden fences, and which ones we can wisely transcend and grow beyond. Otherwise, how can we respect the same needs in others?

6–Druids should serve something greater than themselves. It may be a person, a spirit or god, a relationship, a practice, a community, a cause, an ideal, an institution, a way of life, a language — the possibilities are great. Otherwise, how do we give back and complete our half of the cycle?

7–Druids should listen more than they talk — and we talk a lot! By listening, we can hear music others miss, find beauty that others pass by, celebrate wonders that many children know but adults are coaxed to forget. Otherwise, how can we add our voices to the Great Song that sings each dawn, noon and sunset?

There’s my list. Anything you would delete, change, substitute? What “shoulds” do you follow on your own path?

 

 

Thirty Days of Druidry 24: Playing the Druid Card   1 comment

Could I be the Mage,
or might I be the Fool?
Should we learn to use our cards
like any kitchen tool?

When I search for wisdom,
when I peruse old lore,
do I seek just kicks and tricks
or something worth much more?

Is my quest a question,
things I already know,
or an “undiscovered country”
I rediscover as I grow?

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If “playing the _____ – card” means to take (unfair) advantage of some given of our identities, what might it mean to play the Druid card? Well, it certainly gains us nothing with either the gods or local land spirits.

Druid-card Holder (DCH): “Hey! I’m a Druid!”

Land Wight (LW): “Welcome. Have you listened to the land, spent time hearing what it has to teach, growing a portion of your own food on it, and feeling how each season and its energies shape the lives of all the creatures on it, including you? Have you, in four words, lived where you live?”

DCH: Well, no …

LW: Go away and do not return until you learn reverence.

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“I invoke you, goddess, for a change.”

Let me try again. If I live where I’ve lived, rather than almost anywhere else, I accept the gift of responsibility. Usually the word sounds heavy — something people try to flee rather than to welcome. But let me do my Bard word trick once more. I know I’ve often walked away from my response-ability, my ability to respond. I turn it off, drown it out, change channels, either because it’s painful or too demanding or or or. Third time’s the charm: find three or’s and I can successfully escape my ability to respond and maybe spend my whole life in someone else’s dream rather than one of my own. Success!

I often explore my own “weaknesses” because I find I learn more from them than from my strengths. (“Could that be one of their uses?! Hmm.”) We’re so accustomed to others being down on themselves that you may hear this as more of the same. No. I gain strength and insight from such cool, steady gaze. Don’t misunderstand. I’m as good at denial, deflection and depression as the next fellow. A 3-D life! A modern Western triad!

But what I want to get better at are the finely-tuned opportunities my weaknesses constantly point me toward. Lack something, and I sensitize myself to it everywhere around me. My lack magically energizes the thing to keep knocking at the door of my life. But rather than turning to my ability to respond, my responsibility, I do everything to reject the thing I said I wanted. But no worries, mate: it doesn’t actually vanish. It will keep knocking until I let it in. “Ask (I keep asking all the time) and it will be given to you; seek (we never really give up seeking, just take breaks for a day or a decade) and you will find; knock (oh, how it will knock back, friend!) and the door will be opened to you.”*

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Bala Lake in Wales, where Gwion Bach begins his adventure of transformation

More and more it seems that rather than missed opportunities, there are only ones I keep rejecting. If I really do “miss” one, it will re-group and when necessary take another form in order to reappear down the road and insert itself into my life. Come around the next turn and — ah! There it is, possibly in a guise more difficult to ignore, less easy to escape at all.

My fate pursues me like yours does you, like Ceridwen pursues Gwion through all his transformations. I might even evade my fate for a life or two, come back in another body, gender, set of circumstances, with a “clean slate” so to speak. Except not really. My one life is with me, my responsibility sharpens, clarifies, till I can live it fully, because there’s nothing else I can do, even if I wanted to.

That’s one corner of my “Druid card” — at least, living where I’ve lived, as I understand it so far. What’s yours?

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When I respond, link, connect, then I “beltane.” Let’s make it verb … Not to cheapen it, market it, no. To sanctify it. And you, my kin, my readers, when you last beltaned, what did you discover?

“Beltane is so much about the urge to connect, to blend and merge; to feel a part of something extraordinary; to at once lose one’s sense of self in that merging but also to paradoxically feel more absolutely and truly oneself because of it. In the desire to penetrate life’s mysteries, we need also to open ourselves to them, surrendering to the power of love that it may have the opportunity to transform us. Great things are born in us at such moments of union; this place of merging is where the tap root of our creativity feeds, without it we feel dry and disconnected. If that magical, alchemical moment of connection and merging were a colour, I suspect it might be perceived as many beautiful, vibrant shades but its foundation, I feel sure, would be the green of spring: ecstatically joyful – the irrepressible life and desire that leads us to love.” — Maria Ede-Weaving

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IMAGES: Ceridwen Centre logoBala Lake.

*Matthew 7:7 — an excellent Druidic number!

Updated 9 May 2016

Thirty Days of Druidry 20: Awen Dark and Light   Leave a comment

[Some days, about all I can muster is a good gray awen.]

[Gray, grey. “If it’s good enough for Gandalf, then it’s good enough for me.”]

[Gra/ey magic(k). 1) a hair coloring product. 2a) Magic not performed for specifically beneficial purposes. 2b) (derogatory) Magic which avoids annoying ethical considerations. 2c) Magic practiced to confuse, mislead or perplex others. Roy Bowers’ version (link to article): “your opponent should never be allowed to confirm an opinion about you but should always remain undecided. This gives you a greater power over him, because the undecided is always the weaker.”]

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“Light is the left hand of Darkness.”

Finally the Chief of the Urdd Awen Ddu rose and called for silence with a curious circular gesture. He was a slim, short man who nevertheless had a commanding presence. His simple black robe accentuated his dark eyes. Power spoke in his voice.

“Opposition strengthens us, like a good resistance training exercise. Contrary to the fears of our opponents, it’s not our intention to ‘cover all the lands in a second darkness.’ Our opponents grow stronger as well. But we have a secret they do not know.”

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Almost no shadow

He paused to scan the room and gather eyes. “In the darkness we cast almost no shadow at all. With this energy freed, this psychic weight lifted, we may work our will with advantage. We read in the Hebrew scriptures how even God says, ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places.’* And we have learned together how to recognize and gather these treasures that those who work in light never see, nor ever know. They cannot, not as long as they resist polarity, or think to vanquish one half of the universe.”

IMG_1332A good speaker weaves enchantment over an audience, and the Chief did so now. “Others may fear the Dark. But we have learned, my brothers and sisters, to know and respect its nature and its extent. Identifying with it, its reach becomes our own, and from the concealment darkness offers, we may extend our grasp to life in a way that light cannot. Anciently the Wise have declared, ‘Light is the left hand of Dark.’ Once prepared, as we have prepared ourselves, we can welcome it and grow from it — from the Dark.”

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“Moreover it doth not yet appear that these arts are fables: for unless there were such indeed, and by them many wonderful and hurtful things done, there would not be such strict divine, and human laws made concerning them …” (Henry Cornelius Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy. First published 1531. This edition translated by James Freake, edited and annotated by Donald Tyson, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul MN, 8th printing, 2005).

Of course, this and the previous two posts on the hypothetical Order of the Black Awen are hardly the last word to be said on the subject, nor infallibly workable truths about either the Dark or the Light such as the unwary might conclude, but they are nonetheless one entry, one doorway, one path in themselves.

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*Isaiah 45:3.

 

Thirty Days of Druidry 18: Order of the Black Awen   Leave a comment

“Now, my daughters and sons,” said the old woman, “because all things in this world dance with their opposites, and the Bright is the left hand of the Dark, it is meet that I, who am old and may not live to see the end of the next winter, should be the one who tells you of the Order of the Black Awen, Urdd Awen Ddu.”

She paused, and seeing her shiver I drew the blanket more closely around her. There was just a handful of us still gathered round the fire. Her words might have seemed overblown or contrived at any other time. But the fire and the evening and the mead had each done their work. We were ready to hear almost anything. The dew had descended a couple of hours ago, but the night chill only now was lapping at our skin. Dragon built up the fire again, and raked the coals together so the new logs would kindle sooner. The old woman smiled at us and continued.

“I give the Order its Welsh name, too, because it offers a valuable lesson. Taken apart from its meaning, the sound of it is lovely: oorth ah-wen thoo.* And so too its birth. All things carry in their breasts a spark of the Imperishable Flame at the heart of the world, the breath of the Formless. Anciently the Wise of the East knew this, and the Sage of the Way wrote in his book, ‘From the One comes Two; from the Two, Three; and from the Three the Ten Thousand Things.’ Without that balance, chaos follows. We might even welcome the appearance of the counterpart, the opposite, in a way, without doubting it will cost us dearly when we face it, as we eventually must. But it is the third of the Three that issue from the One which we will turn to for our way forward.”

She spoke now quite deliberately, not expecting questions as she had earlier, when a lot of good-natured banter enlivened the fire circle, and anyone who held forth and pontificated, never mind the subject, soon had to give it up and relearn if necessary the arts of true conversation, of actual give and take, rather than expecting a reverent silence from the rest of us. That earlier hour also saw the old woman depart for a nap after a brief appearance, so that she would be fresh for later. Which was now. And now we wanted her to hold forth, because she had something of considerable value to share with us, and because what she said was new to us. The singing and drinking carried us here, where we needed to listen. Night had shaped this place and space. So we were quite content mostly to listen and ponder her words.

Questions, however, bothered her not at all, and she sat at her ease when we occasionally asked them. Earlier she asked a good few of her own, though her hearing sometimes played tricks on her. Someone inquired where she had first encountered this Order, and this led to a sad but funny story that must keep for another time. Though she must have been in her late nineties and stooped, and the age-spotted skin of her hands slid loosely over her bones, her thought darted swift and sure, and her gaze out of eyes filmy with cataracts was nonetheless keen.

“Now this Order, dedicated as it is to things we must oppose who cherish the balance, comes into existence because we exist. Each thing calls forth its companion, its counterpart, and Dark is ever the companion and counterpart of Bright. It is a peculiar and perilous folly of these days to suppose we can all ‘just get along.’ We cannot. The world simmers always, and sometimes, as it must, it spills over into open conflict. When a Dark Order forms, the action of the Light has made some advance, yes, but it also stands in peril for that reason. The cause of the Light (or the Dark, for all that) is no mere cliche or child’s fantasy, and such a challenge from the Dark, one that claims and divides the awen, is one that we must answer.”

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*the th of this respelling of the sound dd in Welsh urdd and ddu is voiced, as in English this, them, not as in thick, thin.

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