I Call to the Ancestors

An evocative call to the Ancestors from Lorna Smithers


I call to the first single-celled bacteria who divided on that fateful day.
I call to the green-blue algae sun-bathing slimily on the sea.
I call to the stromatolites, living rocks, anchors, billions of years old.
I call in the Cambrian explosion: BOOM! Let there be life!
I call to the trilobite. Come famous one, hard-shelled, scurrying,
many-legged, throwing off your shadow-fossils on the sea-floor.
I call to anomalocaris: stalk-eyed predator, lobed,
spike-armed, round-mawed.
I call to ottaia, opabinia, hallucigenia, canadaspis, marrela.
I call to the crinoids and nautiloids; many-tentacled in party hats.
I call to the sea scorpion, to jawless and jawed, ray-finned and lobe-finned fish.
I call to the sporing plants; Cooksonia, ready your sporangia.
I call to fern, horse-tail, club moss, scaly tree.
I call to the tetrapods; casineria with your five toes,
aconthostega, diadactes, eucritta from the black lagoon.
I call to the gigantic dragonfly: let…

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Urban Nature Meditation

This is a beautiful description of my favourite type of daily ritual, perennial and simple. As Nimue says, “you are also a wild thing living in this space.”

Druid Life

Ideally, take yourself outside in an urban space. If outside is unfeasible, inside at a window will do, to hear or look depending on which senses work best for you. Sit, stand or walk as you prefer – make sure that you are safe to ignore things like traffic, pick somewhere you can afford not to be paying too much attention to human activity. Humans are nature too, but for this exercise, it’s all about other-than-human nature.

Look around. Or listen out. Wait until you notice some other-than-human life. It can be anything able to self determine – plant, bird, insect, you could see a mammal. Take the time to observe this wild and living thing. If you’re really stuck, a domestic pet or exotic garden plant will do, but if you can find a wild thing, so much the better. Going to a safe green space and touching the…

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Inclusivity in Brythonic Polytheism

An excellent post by Lorna Smithers writing for Dun Brython on inclusivity in Brythonic polytheism. Paganism is as open to xenophobic and bigoted interpretation as any other religion, and it is our responsibility to stand up for honour and inspiration in the face of violence and intolerance.

Dun Brython

We live in frightening times. On June 12th, 49 people were shot dead in a gay club in Orlando. On June 16th, Labour politician Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death by a man influenced by the far-right. Since Brexit a multitude of hate-crimes have been committed against immigrants in Britain by nationalists who ‘want their country back.’

I witnessed racist bullying when I was at school but during my adult life have only been aware of rare instances locally and nationally. Up until the last month I was convinced we were moving forward into an increasingly tolerant society. Now I’m not so sure.

Encouragingly the pagan community have stepped up to address discrimination. The Pagan Federation London have written an open letter on bigotry which states:

‘I want to say right here and right now that everyone is welcome in PF-London. It doesn’t matter where you are from…

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The 30 Days of Deity Devotion is long since over in the real world, but will be left unfinished on the blog for now; unfortunately my computer has broken! And it may be a while before I can get hold of another one to type out the remaining posts.

Writing the remaining posts on paper, in long-hand, has been an interesting contrast to posting directly to the blog. Communicating thoughts to others involves thinking them through more thoroughly than I otherwise might; it’s one of the reasons I try to keep blogging. But, conversely, not having to communicate thoughts to others means allowing myself the freedom to let my thoughts carry me away to places I might not otherwise have reached…

I will find a way to adapt those notebook ramblings for the blog, and conclude my 30 days of devotion to the shorelines, but, for now, this is about as much as I can stand to type out on my phone!

More soon, I hope.


30 days’ devotion: life gets in the way

…but devotion never stops.

This is just a quick post to say that there is more to come – if anybody is still reading.

My blogging here has slowed to a trickle, though I have still been writing; just not uploading.  First my computer broke, then the update that fixed it wiped all the saved files, which are now (thankfully!) slowly being recovered.  In between losing and regaining my computer, and falling behind and catching up with studies, I have also adopted a needy, adorable dog, and a lot of my ‘writing’ time recently has actually been spent on the sofa, snuggling with him.  It is profoundly healing.  And, anyway, there seems to have been a strong link between Celtic water deities and dogs, so this could be seen as ‘research’…

Tiny Totoro - aka Cunomaglus?

Tiny Totoro – aka Cunomaglus?

But after this long fallow period, I have managed to write a good few posts, and will publish them all as soon as I can (if my inner perfectionist ever stops tweaking…).  On an evening like this, though, who would spend their time indoors in front of a computer, with such a beautiful coastline just a bike ride away?  The posts will be uploaded soon.  In the meantime, enjoy the blue moon :)

Community and Tribe

Before I begin talking about what might be a difficult topic for me, I hope it goes without saying that this post is not in any way intended as an attack on others’ ideas; it is more an analysis of why I disagree with them, and what thoughts they have inspired as a result.

Oh – and it is long

With that established… I have a confession to make: I really dislike the word “tribe.”  It makes me wince each time I read it.  And I read it a lot in pagan circles.

Tribalism is founded on “othering,” on an opposition of “us” and “them.”  While I have no doubt that the notion of the tribe in modern paganism is mostly focused on the “us” – on the desire to belong to a group of like-minded people – there is always a corollary.

Most of us will have experienced the sharp end of othering: we live in a society where our religious or spiritual beliefs are generally ignored, often ridiculed and sometimes vilified.  And the desire to reach out and connect with like-minded people is a very natural and healthy thing – that is part of the point of keeping this blog, after all.  Ideas are best developed in discussion with people who understand their context, and sometimes we all need a little reassurance that we are not the only ones of our kind out there in the big, wide world.  But when I read people talking about “finding their tribe” in paganism, it is often accompanied by the kind of othering that sets off my warning bells.

This othering, in my experience, has sometimes taken the form of an imagined projection of the “other” by whom the writer or speaker feels, implicitly, rejected; the fact that this “other” is imagined means that no dialogue can ever be established.  And then there is the use of dismissive terms, playful or otherwise, for “others” – muggles, playgans, mundanes.  People who are not like us.  People who are less serious than us, less valid, less important.* People who wouldn’t understand.  Who are these people?  I would hazard a guess that they are, in most cases, our neighbours, our colleagues, our fellow students; our peers.  In other words, our community.  The people we encounter every day who may or may not agree with our world view (because, let’s face it, how many of us have actually asked them?).

What kind of tribe would we be building, if the main criterion was for all of its members to be just like us?

Between the ages of 6 and 14, I was physically attacked by the kids at school and in my neighbourhood, on an almost daily basis, purely because of a perceived difference.  This experience is probably at the root of my mistrust of tribalism: far from making me wish for a community of people who were just like me, it convinced me of the vital need for us to learn to appreciate difference in others.  I am a strong believer in the fact that you don’t have to agree with someone to get along with them, and that we have as much to learn from people who see the world differently from us as we do from people who share our ideas.  It is not easy to sustain an honourable dialogue with someone whose views are diametrically opposed to your own, but… well, I am a druid; to me, engaging in honourable dialogue is part of what it means to walk my path, regardless of how easy or difficult it is. Sometimes, the dialogue will reach a point that makes walking away the most constructive thing to do – but that doesn’t let me off the hook from trying.

People are always a little suspicious of difference, at first.  It’s an entirely natural response.  It’s also entirely natural for curiosity and trust to allow the barriers of suspicion to be broken down, with a little interaction: we are social animals, even flighty misanthropes like me.  In my experience, pagans often talk of seeing themselves as different, with an implicit assumption that the less-different-than-them others should assume responsibility for accepting them as they are.  But it works both ways.  If you see yourself as different from someone, then you see that someone as different from you.  You also need to accept them as they are.

I know I am lucky: I live in a notoriously friendly part of the world, where it is easy enough to get on with my neighbours (though I do wish the guy downstairs would smoke something a bit less pungent…), and my colleagues are pretty decent.  About a year ago, I had something of an epiphany: these people already think I am a bit strange, and they like me anyway.  I don’t need to be afraid of expressing my strangeness, because the relationships I have established within my community allow for it.  I censor myself because I have internalised some kind of idea that it is not ok to be who I am – but that is emphatically not the fault of any of my differently-minded peers, who don’t particularly mind how different I am, just so long as I am able to share a cup of tea and a chat with them (naturally, that chat will probably not be about the role of the bard in inspiring connection with the sacred landscape, but there is a time and a place for everything).

Of course, some people will never accept difference – in which case, I think it is fair enough to decide not to waste any more time and effort on establishing a relationship with them.  But on a purely human-to-human level, I have been consistently and pleasantly surprised, since overcoming those harrowing early experiences from my schooldays.  I have learned as much about my local landscape – its old stories, hidden natural springs and secrets – from my atheist/agnostic/Catholic/Unitarian/Quaker/Islamic neighbours as I have from my local pagan group.  I would never expect these neighbours to take part in the rituals honouring the landscape which they (unwittingly?) inspire, but I am grateful to them all the same, and the fact that we can all share this love for our local landscape in our own different ways is a wonderful thing.

This is why, instead of searching for a tribe to which I can belong, I try to focus on community.  Not everyone in the community can be – or wants to be – a druid, but if we are prepared to work on establishing relationships with them, I bet there are plenty of communities who would welcome a druid in their midst.

p.s. the rise of virtual communities and online interactions adds a whole other dimension to this problem, which I have barely touched, but this post is long enough already and I have some cakes to bake…

*(I get equally frustrated with the use of the word “sheeple” in political discourse.  It roughly translates as: people who have opinions which I consider to be more mainstream, and therefore less valid, than mine.)