Henry & Hornel – The Druids – Bringing in the Mistletoe

As seen by Linda at Kelvingrove museum Glasgow.


This is what it says on the Kelvingrove Museum website about this painting.

George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel were members of a group of artists called the Glasgow Boys who, at the end of the 19th century, revolutionised Scottish painting. This painting, dating from 1890, was the first painting on which the two artists collaborated and is their most daring composition. It displays the rite of bringing in the sacred mistletoe, depicting a group of druids or Celtic priests in richly decorated ceremonial robes and insignia, proceeding down a steep hillside in solemn procession. The mistletoe, having been cut from the sacred oak by a golden sickle held by the chief Druid, is ceremoniously received by subordinates in white raiment and borne home reverently on the backs of the white bulls. Mistletoe is significant as a plant revered by the druids for its magical as well as medicinal properties.

In the 1890s there was a revival of interest in Celtic art and folklore. The influence of this can be seen the use of complex intertwining patterns on the priests’ robes and also on the pattern work of the frame.

Next to the painting there is a touch screen for visitors to learn more about the painting. I clicked on every possibility so that I could show you all, what the museum is saying about Druids (and the painting).

The Procession


The Moon and Snow


The Oak Tree


The Cattle and Mistletoe


The Sickle


Then there are three other screens presenting items that might have been used as part of the inspiration for this painting:

The Dunnichen Stone


The Aylesford Bucket


The Glamis Stone


~ Linda


Druid Meditation Blanket

UntitledThe project began when I read an article by John Michael Greer where he mentioned the arts of our ancestors are falling into disuse. I felt inspired to learn to knit and with the help of a magazine and DVD, YouTube and lots of patience I began to create my Druid meditation blanket one square at a time.

It was autumn and as the days got shorter and the nights grew longer I meditated while knitting. Here are some of my reflections:

My first square is light green, a gentle Ovate colour, which seems to sing of the leaves. During the time knitting the square I have sat in my deck chair, under the verandah, watching autumn changes. The last of the white butterflies, the cool wind, the dryness, and the changing leaves. I feel myself readying for the indoors and the winter soups and the fireside meditations. I think of mastering knitting, a craft handed to me by my mum. I connect with my roots, the women before me, my ancestors.

Aren’t the wobbly bits
At the edge of a piece
Of craft work
Personality coming

I have just listened to ‘Remain in Light’ by the Talking Heads while knitting the light purple square. I noticed the multi-layered African influenced drumbeats, the harmony singing and the experimental nature of the music. The light purple wool quickly formed into rows, knitting is quicker than purl. I checked the DVD and I’m doing purl correctly. There are only white sweet pea flowers and a pastel pink one left on the fence by the house. I’m waiting for rain. Drought was declared yesterday.

My white square reminds me of my Druid robe, the clear white shining stars, the cleanliness of soap, my tai chi gears, sheets flapping in the breeze, and the white clouds drifting overhead. My knitted blanket is going to be magic – like a magic carpet. Each square is a focus for my life as it is while I am creating it. It is a meditation woven in wool.

I can find myself in the strands of wool,
Jumbly, twinkly, spaghetti-like joy
Created by knots on a stick
A community of interdependent loops
Patched together from experience.

Yesterday I knitted a pink fluffy square. I thought of my home and all the comforts I have. It is a place for healing and rejuvenation. I sat on the sofa as the wind buffeted the land. The rain pelted down and I felt the comfort of being inside protected from the elements. I celebrated the feeling of the flow of water.

Magic carpet
Patchwork rug
Druid blankie
Afghan throw
Knitted blanket
Druid journey
Woven strands

~ Dawn


Here’s something I wrote close to the end of my degree last year and I think it fits the Samhain idea of death and rebirth and hope. 

We looked at each other, the bound prisoner and I. Calm grey eyes met terrified blue ones. I winked. Don’t worry. It will all be fine.

It had been the worst year in memory. The drought-ridden summer had shrivelled the grain in the fields. Rivers dried to dust, leaving fish to writhe epileptically as they choked to death on the foetid air. Stream beds cracked into misery. The autumn rains failed to quench the land’s thirst, gathering slightly in puddles and then evaporating, leaving a stinking sludge behind that bred flies and disease, fever stalking in a septic dance from house to house.

Winter though, winter was the destroyer. With no stores from summer set by we were reliant on forage from the woods, soon buried under snow. The deer herds moved south, and we were without meat. Those that the plague had spared in autumn soon fell to a dreadful cough that turned into bloody, choking death. Mothers left their newborns in the forest because they had neither food nor firewood to keep them alive. Brothers killed each other over black and rotten potatoes, and if, after such a fight, a family suddenly had enough meat to keep them fed for a while, nobody said anything.

It will all be fine my wink said, and I wanted desperately to believe it. I wanted – no, needed to believe that the spring would bring a good crop. I needed to know that there would be food. Those frightened eyes found me again, deep in their starved sockets, and I held his gaze. The prisoner was handsome, or he would have been if famine hadn’t tightened his flesh around his bones. Tattoos coiled along previously well-muscled arms and his shrunken chest: A wolf and a bear climbed each bicep to bite at the twin suns on his shoulders while snakes curved around his chest like a pair of fists to challenge each other below his collarbones. Blonde hair was tied back from his face in a braid. There were scars where spear and axe had found him in battles past. He was a fine gift for the Gods, even though his tied hands shook and chapped lips were nervously licked.

I poured all of my ravenous hope into a warm smile for him, my chapped lips splitting and bleeding. My stomach growled at the taste of my own blood. After a long moment, he returned it, all former fear replaced with love. The priest untied him and waved him forward. The crowd parted. The man suddenly had a clear path to freedom, but he went to the altar as though meeting a beloved friend. He would give his gift gladly. He settled himself down on the wooden table, graceful as a cat. He had been cleansed, skin gleaming in the watery sunlight, the hot blood of his predecessors still flowing, nearly black in its redness. The man wasn’t looking at me now. His eyes were fixed on the skies above him as he lifted his chin. He still smiled. The priest’s knife came down, the man’s steaming blood collected in the gold bowl beneath the altar. The eight men that had gone before him, holy now in death, were hanging from the World Tree, blood dripping onto the leaves and feeding the starved earth.

It will all be fine.

~ Rhiannon

Samhain Music

Samhain is a time to honour those gone before. Thalloween-candle-holder-in-evening-grass-picjumbo-comhis is especially so in New Zealand at this time of year as we celebrate ANZAC day, which honours our fallen soliders.

What better way to honour our ancestors than with some music, which reaches out to the soul. Here are my top favourite songs to listen to at Samhain, in no particular order.

      Hallow’s Eve ~ Show of Hands


      Scarecrow ~ Gilmore and Roberts


      Time to Rest ~ Heidi Talbot


    Old Soul ~ Thea Gilmore
      The Green Fields of France ~ Dropkick Murphys


    Hope you enjoy. Let us know what your favourite Samhain songs are in the comments below!
    ~ Mary

Not dead, just resting: two blog posts on the ‘death’ of contemporary (British) paganism

A few years ago, I stood in the Glastonbury Hall at the start of the annual OBOD summer gathering. It was a particularly special gathering: OBOD was celebrating its 50th Anniversary, and it was – quite simply – a magical weekend. Picture hundreds of Druids descending on the town, a line of white robes that could be seen from town leading up to Glastonbury Tor, and the sound of 400 voices resonating with the old stone buildings as we chanted cascading awens (or watch it here!).

One of the more memorable parts of this weekend was the opportunity to see what Druidry looks like outside of New Zealand. Our grove has many women (some would say an abundance!). We have a regular meeting place, and land that we tend together. We have people from a variety of occupations. We have a history that is longer than most groves in OBOD. And we have what I soon learned was a lot of ‘young druids’!

At the gathering, Jonathan Wooley ran a workshop for ‘young druids’, defined as anyone under the age of 35, to meet and discuss our experiences of druidry. There were many questions we tossed around: was druidry your first connection with spirit? if so, how is this different to the many people who come to druidry or OBOD as a second, third, or even fourth ‘phase’ in their spiritual lives? Why aren’t there more young people in OBOD? Later, in a larger group, he ran an experiment: getting everybody to stand up, then asking anybody over 35 to sit down. Of a room full of 150 people, only about 9 were left standing!

Now, this isn’t to say that the younger generations are better than an older generations. But it speaks to diversity, and to the spread of our values from generation to generation. This was a way of looking at OBOD that I hadn’t considered before, and was part of a theme I experienced throughout the weekend of the rise and fall of spiritual groups and what the future of OBOD might be.

Anniversaries provide a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how we got to where we’re standing.  Later that weekend I heard Ronald Hutton and Philip Carr-Gomm talk about their involvement in OBOD, the inherent links paganism has to protest movements, and the natural cycles of movements where branches split off and develop new traditions (you can hear this talk on Druidcast 90). But three years later, I find this theme continues to stay with me. And this week, two provocatively-titled blog posts sprung up on my feed that follow these thoughts: what is the future of OBOD, and druidry, if young people aren’t joining?

British Paganism is Dying. Why? by Jonathan Wooley, on the Gods and Radicals website.

This post looks at what Jonathan calls the ‘slow crisis’ in the pagan movement in Britain, drawing attention to a set of problems that, if unaddressed, he suggests will necessarily lead to the movement dying away. What I like about this post is it doesn’t just say “it’s dying, what’s next”. As an anthropologist, Jonathan looks into what the different social and economic drivers that may have influenced where paganism is now, and what that means for the future. He also grounds his thinking in his experiences in the UK, noting that the experience of pagan communities in countries outside of the UK can be quite different.

Why Contemporary Paganism Deserves to Die by John Halstead at The Allergic Pagan.

Picking up on the concepts in the previous post, John’s post looks at two main concepts: is contemporary paganism dying, or is it simply changing? and is self-absorption to blame? It looks at the cultural and social aspects of paganism rather than the purely spiritual benefits, and what it offers to the world. I really like that the post doesn’t shy away from some of the harder questions: Why do we think we deserve more members? and Do we want more Pagans or do we want Pagan ideas to be a broader part of social discourse and be accepted by non-Pagans as well?

I find it exciting to see such great writing coming out about paganism and where we are going from here. Ironically, these posts make me think there is so much growth and potential in the future of druidry! Plenty of food for thought to take with us into the next cycle of death and rebirth…






An Ode to Balance

Balance, a precious state, not to be found easily, or handed out as a gift, no, balance flows, balance is born of wise choice and actions, it is dynamic, it moves through our whole lives in many forms. The wisdom of our ancestors to be balanced with the excitement of our anticipation, the masculine and the feminine inside us all, emotion and intellect, creation and accomplishment, hearts love for ourselves and for others.

Often we are very aware of the balance we seek as we find ourselves swinging past it frequently in one direction or another, never quite managing to settle before the spot moves on with life’s flow.

At Alben Elfed, the Grove of the Summer Stars celebrated the balance of light and dark once more, committing ourselves to balance, to be blessed with it’s gifts in our own lives and with us, the lives of all around us.


An Ode to Balance

I search for balance, often with a frown
An illusive state, is it ‘verb’ or ‘noun’
‘Equilibrium’ or ‘stability’
‘Justice’, perhaps ‘impartiality’
So many meanings ‘balance’ has for me

But to know that my soul has stabilized
Is to be in a place so dearly prized
Where all my emotions and senses strive
Passions, temperance, together contrive
for that ‘Balance,’ that makes my spirit thrive

~ Les


Autumn Equinox Music

natural-wooden-fence-on-mountain-picjumbo-com Autumn Equinox or Alban Elfed is the time of balance as daylight hours become equal with the darkness of night. It is a time of harvest as we prepare for coming winter.

With Autumn Equinox approaching I thought it was time to share another list of songs that are enjoyable at this time of year.


  1. The Mabon ~ Damh the Bard
  2. Old Soul ~ Thea Gilmore
  3. The Beauty of the Rain ~ Dar Williams
  4. My Sister the Moon ~ Heidi Talbot
  5. Autumn Equinox ~ Paddy’s Allstars
  6. Harvest Dance ~ Gwydion
  7. The Darkening of the Day ~ Bella Hardy
  8. Health to the Company ~ Blackmore’s Night
  9. Harvest Moon ~ Cassandra Wilson / Neil Young
  10. Autumn’s Crown ~ Fairytale

Tree Workshop 

I had attended a tree workshop about 20 years ago when I lived in the Wairarapa; and elements of it had really stuck with me since that time. I felt it would fit well with the Grove of the Summer Stars camp; as it encompassed Head, Hands, Heart and Hallows. As a newby with the Grove of the Summer Stars, I wanted to contribute something. As I’m less of a singer or storyteller (so far!) a Tree Workshop seemed like a perfect thing for me to share with other Druids.


As an introduction to the Tree workshop group members took a few minutes to think about why trees were important to them.

We then shared the large number of responses, which included:

friends, heritage, family tree, past & future, longevity, joy of listening to their wisdom, calming, strength, nurturing, can create from them – wand/staff/drawing/weaving, housing/shelter (birds, insects, us), Dru = ‘of the Oak’, food for lowest to most complex lifeforms, healing, beauty, convert air so we can breathe, magic, fuel – fire, heat/warmth, chemical processes,Green = Heart energy, protect, forest intelligence, Papatuanuku’s cloak, floats/burns – make things with it, leaves (like books), stops erosion, brings water, harmony/balance, help to loose our sense of separation, sacred trees, different trees have different personalities, joy – a gift to share, gift of spirit, climb it, wear it…

I think it might have been at this part of the workshop when we had a brief visit from a dragonfly, which we took as a good omen for the both workshop and the retreat!


The next activity was to draw a tree, (but not from life) free hand. Once drawn, we spent some time analysing the characteristics of the trees people himg_0612ad drawn, which could intuitively represent aspects of themselves. The group then split into pairs to discuss their findings. Some very animated and enthusiastic discussions ensued.There was also some friendly competition between some participants, to see who had the most tree ‘accessories’ e.g. a mushroom, swing, child, fairy, snail, etc…!

I then led the group in a guided meditation, where they visited their sacred Grove, but on this occasion there was an additional tree waiting for them at the centre of their Grove, which had a message, energy or blessing to share. There was less discussion following the completion of the meditation; as the participants found something personal and profound to take with them through the rest of the day.

One of the biggest impressions I had taken from the tree workshop I attended so long ago, was the memory of a delightful character known as ‘the man of the trees’.

Richard St.Barbe Baker (Born: October 9, 1889 – Died: June 9, 1982), was a gentlemanly character, passionate about trees – who encouraged the planting of trees all over the world, and in NZ.

He also credited trees with keeping him in good health for much of his life, and suggested one could put their hands on a tree to receive energy. We watched NZ On Screen’s 1981 video documentary (about 20 minutes) about him and his work. This video is available online at this link: https://www.nzonscreen.com/embed/9d1aad49d6394f84

In addition, there are several web articles about Richard St.Barbe Baker available online if you do a Google search.

We ended by having a play with my tree oracle and runes.

– Claire

Lughnasadh Soup

At Lughnasadh camp each year, the Lughnasadh ceremony on Sunday is followed by a communal lunch. Campers, other Grove members and visitors share a meal, of which this delicious soup is the basis.

Lughnasadh Soup (double recipe – need 2 big stock pots) (32 large serves)

img_426116 tablespoons olive oil
8 teaspoons ground cumin
6 teaspoons turmeric
8 heaped teaspoons minced garlic
8 litres vegetable stock (32 tsp Rapunzel stock powder with 32 cups water)
8 cups red lentils (rinsed)
16 medium-sized carrots
16 stalks celery
8 large kumara
salt and freshly ground black pepper


Chop the onion in 1cm chunks and cook in the oil or butter for about 5 mins till clear. During this time, stir in cumin, turmeric & garlic. The spices should smell fragrant, but should not burn.

Add the liquid and the lentils (more makes a thicker soup), and simmer, stirring now and then.

Cut the carrots and celery in 5mm slices, and the thinly peeled kumara in 1cm cubes. Add them and cook gently, with the lid, tiimg_4264lted, for 20-30 minutes, or until everything is tender. Leave the soup chunky, or puree all or part of it, depending on the texture you like. Thin with extra stock, or water if very thick. Taste and season last of all.

Serve with crusty bread and optional cheese. Corn fresh off the cob is also a fitting accompaniment!

(This soup is based on Alison Holst’s Creamy Lentil and Vegetable Soup from her book, Meals without Meat.)

Lughnasadh Songs

With Lughnasdah approaching I thought I would share with you a playlist of 10 songs that are appropriastump-in-forest-picjumbo-comte to this festival. Most of these you can find on Spotify or Youtube, which I have linked where possible. I will also link to where you can buy the songs from. In no particular order, here you are:

  1. Lughnasdah ~ Damh the BardLet’s start of with a song from our Pendragon, Damh the Bard. This song is a catchy song from his 2002 album Herne’s Apprentice and it follows the story Corn King in the style of John Barleycorn songs.
  2. Lughnasdah Dance ~ Gwydion PendderwenThis song is by one of the first Pagan musicians, Gwydion Pendderwen, who released this on his 1975 album Songs for the Old Religion.  Damh the Bard features a version of this song on The Cauldron Born which is easier to buy.
  3. Scarborogh Fair ~ Various artistsTo be fair, I did spot this on Star Foster’s list of Lughnasdah songs and agreed. She listed the Simon and Garfunkel version of this traditional English ballad, which is arguably the most well known. However, Damh the Bard also does a cover on his latest album, Sabbat. I promise that this list isn’t just a list of Damh songs!
  4. Heartbeat of Harvest (Lughnasadh) ~ Cernunnos RisingThis song about the lessons learnt from the harvest. It is off Wild Soul by English singer/songwriter, Cernunnos Rising, aka George Nicholas.
  5. Harvest Song ~ Spiral Dance
    This Australian band’s offering starts of sounding like a Christmas carol before it beats up, which I like. This comes from The Quickening.
  6. John Barleycorn ~ Various artists
    Another British folksong, this song can be found in many places. There are 2 versions of this song that I really enjoy from the album John Barleycorn Reborn, which is a great album for this time of year. And yes, I am aware that Damh the Bard also has a version of this song.
  7. Lughnasadh ~ Threefold
    This song is from the British new age group, Threefold. Its found on their album, The Very Best of Threefold.
  8. Lammas Moon ~ Touch the Earth
    Touch the Earth are a tribal folk band, which is show cased in this song from their album Full Circle.
  9. Lammas Song ~ Inkubus Sukkubus
    Inkubus Sukkubus are a gothic rock pagan band. If you are put off by them being a rock band I would still recommend this song as it leans more towards gothic pagan song than rock song. It is from their album Wild.
  10. Rise of the Corn ~ Carolyn Hillyer
    This song has a tribal beat with beautifully sung lyrics over top. I couldn’t find where to buy this song but you can check out more of Carolyn’s work on the Seventh Wave Music site.

Let us know what your favourite songs for Lughnasadh are in the comments below!