initiation / fear of creativity

Down, down to the mouth of the cave, you follow the path you have always been walking.

Inside the cave, a shadow sharpens into focus – a faceless, wordless form, melting and shifting in the shadows, sprouting features every time you hold a thought.  It moves towards you and you press back against the rock in open horror.

You have learned everything you can; now it falls to you to give a name, a face, a form to your tradition.  Sing it into the world with words, shape it with your thoughts and hands.  You have already brought it this far just by thinking, just by walking the path to this place.  Now you have seen it, you know it will always be here.

Alongside the form, you fall to your knees with your head in your hands, while it writhes and grunts through vocal chords half-formed.

I believe

Living is an act of creativity.

Our lives are what we create, every waking moment, from the raw materials of existence and consciousness and time.

And on those days when I forget, I am fortunate enough to be reminded – by friends and companions, and by dreams.

On Cosmology and Compost

The story of Bluebeard, as Clarissa Pinkola Estés tells it, ends with cormorants and raptors, eaters of the dead, breaking down the body of the monstrous man until every trace of him has been returned into the earth.  The destructive force is not just vanquished, in this tale; it is broken down, assimilated to the point that it enriches.  The “irredeemable” detritus of a difficult life, or a life not well-lived, is broken down by these symbolic eaters of the dead to form the soil for new psychic growth.  A long, painful process; one we don’t discuss much, in our culture.  It isn’t pretty, but it is sacred.

They are her creatures, these eaters of the dead; but who is she?

She is the all-receiving earth.

Not the universe itself; she has her limits.  She is a force vast beyond human comprehension – a giantess indeed, an endless cycle which encompasses all existences on earth – but nothing more.  This perception, I suppose, is what roots my spiritual worldview in the ground of poly/henotheism.  I believe even that if my body were returned to a different earth, in a distant place on this same planet, she would receive me with another face.  I have heard – and not always understood – the different voices of the land while travelling the world, acknowledging the limits of my ability to understand, formed by time and experience.  Here, I hear her clearly; she is Hel.

Estés tells another story about the eaters of the dead: how the dead are carried in the bellies of these creatures to Hel, to her realm, where she shows them how to live backwards: “they become younger and younger until they are ready to be reborn and re-released back into life.”

Like many writers of a pagan sensibility, Estés makes great use of natural cycles as allegories for psychological experience.  The carrion birds in her tale are “sin-eaters,” processes by which the toxic waste of difficult experiences are broken down, transformed and released back into life.

In our minds we die over and over, constantly reborn to new understandings, new ideas, new ways of feeling and being in the world.  Even our bodies break down and form new expressions of themselves, cell by cell, over a lifetime.  Death is more than just the end of life; it is the process by which life is possible.

All these thoughts were on my mind this morning, as I walked the sandstone trails to the sacred place where I first felt her presence.  For years, I have carried this burden of sadness, unsure of where to put it down, unwilling to entrust it to the earth – it seems so toxic.  But what is toxic to the living may be beneficial to the soil.  The earth transforms.  I am ready to trust her, to place my heart in the hands of her relentless cycles of release; this year, at last, I am ready to set down this burden and learn to walk on through life without it.  And it may take a while…

muddy boots and mistletoe: a midwinter renewal

The solstice arrived with high winter drama, storms, blackouts and floods across the country – everywhere, it seemed, except for where I went.  I was in the South again, and on the 22nd December I walked up to the Long Man of Wilmington under brilliantly clear Sussex skies, to celebrate the end of the longest night on the South Downs.  Members of the Anderida Gorsedd brought home-made mead, bread and cakes to share around the circle, and after a windswept ceremony we each took home a sprig of mistletoe cut with a golden sickle.  A druid cliché – yet in context, an act of such beauty and celebration; the warm light of the risen sun caught the golden echo of the blade, and the sacred herb of air was shared out with all its connotations of love and celebration.  This was ritual as poetry in the world of acts.  Back in gentle, sheltered Merseyside, I hung the mistletoe from the lintel with a green ribbon, and reflected on the cycle of the sun just past.

When I chose the title of this blog originally, I hoped to capture an idea of interconnectedness – a sense that I am a druid always and anyway, whether debating philosophy in pubs, tending to the herbs in our little yard, arguing with the Today programme while still in my pyjamas or taking a moment to watch the sun rise over the far shore of the Mersey on my morning commute.  Yet increasingly, over the months, it seemed to reflect something else: my ambivalence and reticence, a tendency to separate the mundane and the spiritual aspects of my life.

A lot has changed in the six months since I started blogging.  Inspired to take a more active role within the druid community, I have found myself responsible for the peace pages on the website of The Druid Network – a learning curve which I feel I am only just beginning to negotiate.  Close to my heart, the cause of peace is coaxing me to set aside my careful neutrality and take a stand for what I truly believe to be right.

Though I have never consciously hidden my beliefs, this year has been a gradual process of opening them up to shared celebration and support.  Even my mother, who used to blame any computer glitch on “those weird druid websites” I visited, gave me a silver triskele as a solstice gift, urging me to open it before Christmas because it was connected with my “weird stuff.”

So the new year begins (a few days late) with a renewal of this blog – a title to carry the magic of that midwinter ritual through the months to come, as the sun moves North across the sky.  The summer solstice will find me in Anglesey, preparing to start training as Awenydd.  In the meantime, this blog will bring together my attempts to coordinate a druid expression of peace, in the face of increasingly alarming jingoism from our government; a page of book reviews that seem not quite druidic enough to make the more obvious websites, but still of definite druidic interest; and adventure.  Definitely adventure.

May your solar year be bright with inspiration!