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…

 

-Nicola

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Book Review: Earth Tree – An Anthology of Poems

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EARTH TREE – An Anthology of Poems
by Dawn McKenzie

Copies are available from Dawn McKenzie
Email: Leafspr8@xtra.co.nz
$NZ20 + postage

Natures riches, blended knowingly with elemental cycles, with spiritual beliefs, set within the magical land that is Aotearoa, this poetry captures it all. Readers are transported by the imagery created, born of Dawn’s life experience and deep understanding of the connection between all life forces. Delightful drawings of the branches and leaves the trees featured are sprinkled throughout the text, enriching the verse still further. ‘Earth Tree’ is a must have collection of poetry for both those who understand well our dependence and empathy with our planet and also for those who desire to discover it.

“She knows the cycles
Daybreak to sundown,
The seasons –
Beltane’s buds to winter bareness.
She knows the creative cycles,
The birds in her branches
Nest, fly,
and make their homes in her boughs.”

~Les

Book Review: Awareness – A De Mello Spirituality Conference In His Own Words

I founawerenessd this on the internet a number of years ago and thought that fellow grovers might be interested: AWARENESS; A de Mello Spirituality Conference in His Own Words by Anthony, S.J.; Edited by Stroud, J. Francis, S.J. De Mello (Author).

Anthony de Mello was a Jesuit priest 1937 – 1981. His writing is thought provoking and challenging. Despite being a Jesuit priest most of his themes are equally applicable to persons from any spiritual believe. In the introduction he tells us that we are all born asleep and that many of us never wake up; most don’t even want to. Among other things he challenges his listeners / readers:

  • to look at who they really are themselves and stop being a slave to their upbringing.
  • to reconsider their motives for ‘good works’.
  • to consider the age old question of ‘who am I?” or indeed “what is this thing I call ‘I’?”.

It has nice short sections which I particularly like so that I can be challenged and have something to think about for hours, days (or longer) without having to spend hours on the pre-reading.

Quite topically (considering de Mello died in 1981) he tells this story:

I remember hearing about a man who asks his friend, “Are you planning to vote Republican?” The friend says, “No, I’m planning to vote Democratic. My father was a Democrat, my grandfather was a Democrat, and my great-grandfather was a Democrat.” The man says, “That is crazy logic. I mean, if your father was a horse thief, and your grandfather was a horse thief, and your great-grandfather was a horse thief, what would you be?” “Ah,” the friend answered, “then I’d be a Republican.”

I have included a couple of short extracts for you as a taster. If you are interested, here is a link to an online PDF version: http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/tonyawareness.pdf

THE MASQUERADE OF CHARITY

Charity is really self-interest masquerading under the form of altruism. You say that it is very difficult to accept that there may be times when you are not honest to goodness really trying to be loving or trustful. Let me simplify it. Let’s make it as simple as possible. Let’s even make it as blunt and extreme as possible, at least to begin with. There are two types of selfishness. The first type is the one where I give myself the pleasure of pleasing myself. That’s what we generally call self-centeredness. The second is when I give myself the pleasure of pleasing others. That would be a more refined kind of selfishness.

The first one is very obvious, but the second one is hidden, very hidden, and for that reason more dangerous, because we get to feel that we’re really great. But maybe we’re not all that great after all. You protest when I say that. That’s great!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FINDING YOURSELF

The great masters tell us that the most important question in the world is: “Who am I?” Or rather: “What is ‘I’?” What is this thing I call “I”? What is this thing I call self? You mean you understood everything else in the world and you didn’t understand this? You mean you understood astronomy and black holes and quasars and you picked up computer science, and you don’t know who you are?

~ Linda

Lugh Lamhfade by Moria

Here is the lyrics for the song we sing at Lughnasdh, Lugh Lamhfade by Moria.

Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh the shinning one
Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Warrior of the Sun

God of craftsmen
Lugh of the long arm
All knowing all wise
LUGH!

Travelled to the West
With the Tuatha da Danaan
Celtic sun god
LUGH!

Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh the shinning one
Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Warrior of the Sun

Slayer of Balor
The champion Formore
Warrior sun god
LUGH!

Lugh Chromain
Now called Leprechaun
Sleeping with the aes sidhe
LUGH!

Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh the shinning one
Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Warrior of the Sun

Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh

Here is us singing it at Druid Camp 2017:

Here is Moria’s nephews band singing it:

Criminal Buddha

Recently I have become obsessed with true crime podcasts. I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of this but I did come across a particular episode that I thought many of you would be interested in.

The episode is from a podcast called Criminal which is usually an interview on various aspects of crime. They have featured interviews with dog handlers, ex cons, victims and other professionals and people that have been involved with crime in general.

The episode I want to draw your attention to is Episode 15: He’s neutral. It is about a couple who put up a Buddha statue in their neighbourhood and it transformed their community. Next time you have a spare 15 minutes give it a listen and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Mary

The Wild Hunt

This week I thought bring attention to the awesome pagan blog The Wild Hunt. Many of you may already be aware of this website as it has been around doing great work in the Pagan community for many years now.

The Wild Hunt is Pagan news and commentary journal that publishes daily articles. These articles range from events facing the Pagan community to Pagan perspectives on current events around the world.

Originally founded by Jason Pitzl, The Wild Hunt now has 3 weekly writers and 10 regular columnists. Once a week they have a post called Pagan Community Notes, where they highlight events that have recently happened or about to happen within the Pagan community worldwide.

The columns range from topics such as mythology and it’s relevance today to perspectives on death. The Wild Hunt also has been reporting on the Standing Rock situation and what outspoken Pagans views were after the recent American election.

The Wild Hunt is well worth keeping an eye on. 

Mary

Sometimes a Wild God

 

‘Sometimes a Wild God’ is a poem by Tom Hirons. Many within our Grove have fallen in love with this poem and it has been read at more than one eisteddfod in the last couple of years. You can buy the poem in a book form with illustrations by Rima Staines here.

 

Sometimes a Wild God

Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine.When the wild god arrives at the door,
You will probably fear him.
He reminds you of something dark
That you might have dreamt,
Or the secret you do not wish to be shared.

He will not ring the doorbell;
Instead he scrapes with his fingers
Leaving blood on the paintwork,
Though primroses grow
In circles round his feet.

You do not want to let him in.
You are very busy.
It is late, or early, and besides…
You cannot look at him straight
Because he makes you want to cry.

The dog barks.
The wild god smiles,
Holds out his hand.
The dog licks his wounds
And leads him inside.

The wild god stands in your kitchen.
Ivy is taking over your sideboard;
Mistletoe has moved into the lampshades
And wrens have begun to sing
An old song in the mouth of your kettle.

‘I haven’t much,’ you say
And give him the worst of your food.
He sits at the table, bleeding.
He coughs up foxes.
There are otters in his eyes.

When your wife calls down,
You close the door and
Tell her it’s fine.
You will not let her see
The strange guest at your table.

The wild god asks for whiskey
And you pour a glass for him,
Then a glass for yourself.
Three snakes are beginning to nest
In your voicebox. You cough.

Oh, limitless space.
Oh, eternal mystery.
Oh, endless cycles of death and birth.
Oh, miracle of life.
Oh, the wondrous dance of it all.

You cough again,
Expectorate the snakes and
Water down the whiskey,
Wondering how you got so old
And where your passion went.

The wild god reaches into a bag
Made of moles and nightingale-skin.
He pulls out a two-reeded pipe,
Raises an eyebrow
And all the birds begin to sing.

The fox leaps into your eyes.
Otters rush from the darkness.
The snakes pour through your body.
Your dog howls and upstairs
Your wife both exults and weeps at once.

The wild god dances with your dog.
You dance with the sparrows.
A white stag pulls up a stool
And bellows hymns to enchantments.
A pelican leaps from chair to chair.

In the distance, warriors pour from their tombs.
Ancient gold grows like grass in the fields.
Everyone dreams the words to long-forgotten songs.
The hills echo and the grey stones ring
With laughter and madness and pain.

In the middle of the dance,
The house takes off from the ground.
Clouds climb through the windows;
Lightning pounds its fists on the table.
The moon leans in through the window.

The wild god points to your side.
You are bleeding heavily.
You have been bleeding for a long time,
Possibly since you were born.
There is a bear in the wound.

‘Why did you leave me to die?’
Asks the wild god and you say:
‘I was busy surviving.
The shops were all closed;
I didn’t know how. I’m sorry.’

Listen to them:

The fox in your neck and
The snakes in your arms and
The wren and the sparrow and the deer…
The great un-nameable beasts
In your liver and your kidneys and your heart…

There is a symphony of howling.
A cacophony of dissent.
The wild god nods his head and
You wake on the floor holding a knife,
A bottle and a handful of black fur.

Your dog is asleep on the table.
Your wife is stirring, far above.
Your cheeks are wet with tears;
Your mouth aches from laughter or shouting.
A black bear is sitting by the fire.

Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine
And brings the dead to life.

 

Library – Almanacs

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In our Grove library sits a small, but growing section of Almanacs. Of course you may question why anyone would want to read out of date almanacs. Or why we would want almanacs set for the Northern Hemisphere. They are good questions.

 

The answer is that you totally ignore the calendar parts of the Almanacs. The 4 different Llewellyn almanacs that are on offer all have very insightful articles on pagan life.

 

The Magical Almanac contains articles on “Practical Magic for Everyday Living.” They are laid out in sections relating to the 4 elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water. This means there are pieces about soap making in the Water section and articles talking about food and kitchen witchery in the Earth sections.

 

The Witches Companion is again divided into 4 sections.

  • Community Forum with essays comparing Eclectic Wicca with Traditional Wicca, or discussing community issues like children, elders and coming across pagans we might not personally like.
  • Witchy Living has articles about day-to-day practice of paganism.
  • Witchcraft Essentials looks at different witchy practices, rituals and spells. This isn’t as cheesy as it sounds. The 2014 edition has an article called ‘Solitude and Quiet: Important Tools for the Magical Partitioner’ which urges you to take a break form the busy world we live in.
  • The last section is Magical Transformations – Everything old is new again. I can’t really work out what these articles seem to fit into, other than they seem to look at a variation of different views in paganism including looking into specific deities. There is also a good piece in the 2015 edition about why myth matters, for all those Bards out there.

 

The Sabbats Almanac is sectioned into the 8 seasonal Sabbats. Within each Sabbat there is an initial article about the season and then articles related to the following: Cosmic Sway, The Old Ways, Feasts and Treats, Crafty Crafts, All One Family, and a Ritual suggestion.

 

The Herbal Almanac contains 5 sections – Growing and Gathering Herbs, Culinary Herbs, Herbs for Health and Beauty, Herb Crafts and Herb History, Myth, and Lore. These are great little articles to help get you started on using and understanding herb use. However, word of warning, these have not been checked over by our resident herbalist and you should always check your sources, especially before digesting herbs.

 

The articles in these books range from a couple of pages to 7 or 8 pages long. So next time you arrive early to a ritual, and you have spare moment, please check out this section and read some articles. Let us know if they spark off any thought provoking ideas worth discussing in a blog post!

– Mary

 

Book Review: Warrior Goddess Training; Becoming the Woman You Are Meant to Be

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“Warrior Goddess Training; Becoming the Woman You Are Meant to Be”

HeatherAsh Amara, Heirophant Publishing, 2014.(Available through NZ Fishpond website, $16.99 including delivery).

 

“If you don’t love and honor yourself with every fibre of your being, if you struggle with owning your power and passion, if you could use more joyful play and simple presence in your life, then it is time for an inner revolution. It is time to claim your Warrior Goddess energy” (p xv, 2014).

 

I was looking for some help to reignite my spark for life and myself when I serendipitously found HeatherAsh Amara’s Goddess Warrior Training book online. This teaser introduction quoted above follows through in the earthy, helpful and compassionate journey of self-discovery that she invites you embark on. HeatherAsh comes from an unashamedly earth based spiritual stance in honouring the seasons and deeply knowing the power of the elements yet writes in an accessible way and provides excellent introductions for those not familiar with this path. This rich spirituality is woven throughout the book and had my soul dancing with the pages.

 

The journey of personal transformation is not an easy one, and so too with this book, HeatherAsh goes beyond the theory of living compassionately from your authentic Self to actually helping you achieve this. She guides you through a journey designed to enable you to unpack some of the mental, emotional, spiritual and life baggage that might be holding you back and not serving you anymore. Written with warmth and sharing her own and other women’s life experiences and struggles, she helps you to notice things like; the inner judgement and victim voices we might have, the old stories and beliefs we hold about ourselves and our situations that are no longer true, the ways we might focus on pleasing others, being overly busy, looking after others to the detriment of ourselves or getting caught up in distractions, over controlling or hiding and giving away our power. If these are some things you struggle with, this book may well help you on your way. She assists in transforming these patterns and habits by teaching tools and ways to cleanse your being, reclaim your truth, challenge your thinking and old agreements, let go what no longer serves, mend your heart, ignite creativity and passion, and listen to your intuition and find wisdom and strength in your inner being.

This might seem like a tall order but I have found Goddess Warrior Training delivers with compassion and humour too.   Reading this book is not a passive journey but one that requires your inner Warrior Goddess to step forward! Certainly this beautiful book has helped me enormously and I highly recommend it.

– Sara

 

SerpentStar – Beltane 2015

This afternoon while I was scrolling through the blogs I follow, I spotted the Beltane issue of SerpentStar that I’d flagged to read a few weeks ago.
For those of you who may not heard of it, SerpentStar is the online, free newsletter for OBOD in the Southern Hemisphere. Sitting alongside Touchstone, its focus on traditions and seasonal celebration in the Southern Hemisphere is a welcome addition to the variety of work on the web from OBOD Druids.

I haven’t read SerpentStar in a while, and I have to say it’s changed a bit since I last looked. I opened it up to see a professional-looking, clean design, with some wonderful photos from groves across the Southern Hemisphere. The format is now more similar to Touchstone, with information about groves at the beginning, contributions in the middle, and upcoming events and advertising at the end. It had a nice sense of familiarity about it.

The contributions this quarter are a great read. There’s Pete Blake talking about his experience going to one of the UK OBOD Camps, Maria Ede-Weaving writing from the Northern Hemisphere on the paradox of the Beltane/Samhain Axis, and Todd William Dearing exploring the Sacred Masculine.

One of the things I love the most is seeing pictures from Australian OBOD groves – with our shared history they seem somewhat familiar, but the landscape and indigenous influences are also so different. I love seeing how OBOD Druidry is developing and responding to the traditions of the land.
The issue is primarily Australia-focused, but it doesn’t have to be! If anyone is interested in submitted their work to SerpentStar, submissions for their Lughnasadh issue are open until the end of January, so there’s plenty of time to submit those creative outputs that the summer brings.

-Nicola