walking this path

It has been a while since my last proper post; in all honesty, bar the tenuous, Telegraph-given connection, the subject of my last actual post is a little out of keeping with the blog (oh hai there new followers!  It is very nice to have you, but I thought you all deserved a warning).  Like its non-identical twin sister, this blog fizzled out a little over the latter part of last year.  I had been using them both to skirt around the sayable, while privately, silently, exploring the unsayable.

Last year feels as though it should have been a turning point, though nothing much has turned.  After withdrawing a little from the online community of pagans, and immersing myself in the mystery tradition of Anglesey Druidry, I have emerged with more or less the same perspective as before, but with a much steadier sense of the ground beneath my feet, and a lot more clarity about how I could explore it further.

Mystery is, in essence, inexpressible; finding ways to express the inexpressible is what art is for – and although I make no claims to be an artist, this blog exists to express ideas about druidry: a path which is partly rooted in gnosis, mysticism and subjective experience.  I need to use it to express the things that actually inspire me, no matter how hesitant I am to expose them to the winds of internet opinion; otherwise it has no heart.  I am starting to understand a little more about what it means to be a bard, having thought for all these years that perhaps I could just quietly avoid that aspect of the druid path without anybody noticing.  Unfortunately, “anybody” included me (who, privately, noticed very much); it also included the deepest wellspring of my inspiration, a deity who is not the type to insist, but is not exactly easily suppressed…

So: what am I doing?

This question (“the old song”) is a favourite of Cat Treadwell’s, and I have learned a lot from the clarity of its simple directness.

Right now, I am re-reading Kuno Meyer’s translation of The Voyage of Bran, son of Febal, thanks to the Forgotten Books project.  And I am writing.  Writing here, because over the past few days I have been devouring pagan blogs; clicking my way into a labyrinth of links and references and, gradually, reading my way out again, laden with a list of new books to find and references to check, and correspondences between ideas that had never quite met one another before.  In that context, it seems miserly to read so much and not offer something in return, no matter how little.  There comes a point when there is more to be learned by sharing one’s own ideas than by hoarding other people’s, and some connections can only be made out loud.  But that leap of faith is terrifying.  I know so little.  Will I ever know enough?

Enough for whom?

Enough by what measure?

If my measure is an inspired and inspiring life, then I think I am at least on track.  The inspiration I feel may not always express itself in art – in the words or music we associate with bard-craft (though the moment on Sunday when I sang to the turning tide and saw a cormorant fly overhead and land in the water with each verse, was a moment of pure magic) – but in some small way I can feel it expressed in everything I do.  Just under four months ago, I was initiated as awenydd; now, I am learning to be one.  It takes faith to spend so much time and effort researching old tales and traditions, and to glean inspiration from sources that have been obscured by time; it takes still more faith to pour our souls into the work of singing this inspiration back into the world.  But it is the work I vowed to undertake.  And – however I try to rationalise it, whatever stories I weave around it –  Manawydan mab Llŷr (and maybe also Manannan mac Lir) is at its heart.

image by the wonderful Thalia Took: www.thaliatook.com

image by the wonderful Thalia Took: http://www.thaliatook.com

Let not thy intoxication overcome thee;
Begin a voyage across the clear sea

The Voyage of Bran, son of Febal

So I begin.

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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!