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

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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

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

 

Reading to Druid littlies – kids’ books that inspire spirituality

Since starting our family, or even before that – when we considered the idea of bringing children up in a spiritual tradition – we’ve been on the look out for books that inspire kids’ spirituality in different ways. There are those that are written for parents, like Starhawk’s Circle Round: Raising Children in the Goddess Traditionsand there are those written for the children themselves. The examples of these that we’ve read and enjoyed fall into several categories.

  • The overt reproduction of myths/magical stories

Moon Goddess Dance, written by Sally Seitz, illustrated by Joshua Allen.

This story takes most of the storyline of the Taliesin myth, especially using the transformations of Gwion and Ceridwyn through all the paired animals. It’s simple and sweet, with an emphasis on magic, but in my opinion it feels a bit shallow and is not very satisfying to read as an adult.

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  • Books that teach about spirituality

On My Way to a Happy Life, written by Deepak Chopra and Kristina Tracy, illustrated by Rosemary Woods

Deepak Chopra must be known to most spiritual seekers, if only by name. This beautiful book is a firm favourite in our house, with its whimsical illustrations and flowing text. It steps through seven simple lessons for a happy life that stem from Buddhism but resonate strongly with Druid beliefs. The messages are easy enough to understand for children and also are a wonderful reminder to adults to slow down and take time to appreciate things as well.

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  • Books that cultivate a reverence for the seasons/sacred spaces/land

Out and About, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes

Shirley Hughes writes classic kids’ books that focus on kids’ experiences of the world, and though some of her series are a little dated in terms of family dynamics and gender roles (Lucy and Tom, for example), this book of poems is timeless. The verse is rich and satisfying, exploring each season in turn, and the illustrations are beautifully detailed. We read this book a lot in our house, and we have definite favourite pages – the double spread for spring gets lots of attention, and the autumn poem (Fire is a dragon alive in the night…) is chanted with great gusto!

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  • Blessings and lullabies

Kissed by the Moon, written and illustrated by Alison Lester

Alison Lester is an Australian author who draws on her experiences of a farming childhood for many of her books. While her picture books often focus on animals, this one is quite differently phrased – a series of what are very clearly blessings (May you, my baby…) expressing the wish that this child will grow up with a reverence for nature. The title comes from the final blessing – and may you, my baby, be kissed by the moon – giving the feel of a lullaby. This book is deeply satisfying to read, being both simple and heartfelt, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

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Happy reading!

– Steph

Book Review: From the Cauldron Born by Kristoffer Hughes

Image: From the Cauldron Born
‘From the Cauldron Born: Exploring the Magic of Welsh Legend and Lore’ is actually the second book by Kristoffer Hughes. His first book, Natural Druidry, is out of print but still much sought after. The Cauldron Born is at its most simple, a book about the Myth of Ceridwen and Taliesin, it is a story that many within the Druidic and Celtic traditions are familiar with.  Its more complex edge, or what is different about this book, is how Mr Hughes writes and what he extrapolates from this myth. What is found within the pages of this book is very much Magic, Knowledge and Wisdom. You see Kristoffer Hughes is not just a Druid Priest, but he is also a ‘Pathology Technologist’ who works for Her Majesty’s Coroner. He has used this skill and training, of figuring out how and why a person died, to delve deep into the mystery that is the myth of Ceridwen, and the Mabinogion. But Mr Hughes goes further than this. Whether by design or not, this book is also teaching the reader – if they are willing to learn – to apply these various techniques to dissect and delve deeper into other mythologies and legends. In turn this deepens your own understanding and magical practice.

Kristoffer Hughes writes in an engaging way, which draws the reader on to the end of the chapter with ease and encourages the reader to participate in the various exercises. I did and found them most enjoyable. Kris has a wicked sense of humour and fun as well as a serious side, both of which are sacred and it is evident in his book. It made for great reading.

At the end of the book is a yearlong ritual meditation and practice. If you are an aspiring druid looking to expand on your OBOD gwers, or to deepen your work I highly suggest that you at the very least read this.  While they are simple exercises they have a depth to them which is inspiring.

While it is a northern hemisphere book, it is not too difficult to translate the correspondences for the southern hemisphere, and we are quite well practised at that. You may also need to find substitutes for some of the physical things required, but the research you put into this will deepen your understanding of place, and practice even more (well it did for me). And the extra good news is that this book has a follow on book, Celtic Magic, which so far is equally as good.

Do I recommend this book? A whole hearted yes!  This book is written in a very accessible way, while at the same time to the discerning reader many layers can be found. Put simply, this book has hidden depths. The novice may enjoy it, and somebody who has been walking their path for some years may also gain new insight and wisdom. These are often my favourite types of book, those that help you think and understand things from new and different angles.  Those that deepen your own magic and practice.

Having read Kris’s other books, Celtic Magic and The Journey into Spirit,  I can say that this is pretty much how the other two are written. From the Cauldron Born is a book about Druidry. It is about Magic, Myth and Cerridwen. It is about inviting Magic and Myth into your life and practice. It is about how you connect to your magic, your place and your land, and what that means to you. Read this book for yourself and see, but be discerning as always!

Personally, I give this book 5 awens out of 5.

-Polly Lind

 

Polly is an Urban Witch and Priestess who lives in the windy city Wellington, New Zealand.  For further writing from Polly, and to check out her latest crafts, try the links below.

Website: http://pollylind.com/
Etsy Store: https://www.etsy.com/nz/shop/UrbanWitchery

 

Book Review: The Path of Druidry by Penny Billington

Image: The Path of Druidry

Image source: Llewellyn Worldwide

‘The Path of Druidry: walking the ancient green way’ by Penny Billington, is a complete course of study for those wanting to practice contemporary Druidry.

Penny shares her first hand knowledge, as an OBOD Druid, in clear conversational language with a hint of warm humour. The book is steeped in the Celtic mythology of the Mabinogion. Within each story Penny skillfully unlocks ideas that enlighten us to our humanness.

Each of the twelve clearly laid out chapters have a balance of thoughtfulness, theory and practical ways of trying out Druidry. To get the most from this book make the subtitle ‘walking the ancient green way’ literally and be prepared to get outdoors and explore. Even though Penny uses imagery from her home in Britain, I found it easy to relate the ideas in the book to New Zealand once I put my walking shoes on and explored her ideas in my local environment.

‘The Path of Druidry’ has plenty for everyone seeking to open their senses to the Druidic world of wonder while being thoroughly engaged at home, work and within their community. The book can be read by beginners who want a good foundation, and for those who want to expand their own familiar druidic practices. You are encouraged to delve deep into the treasure here.

-Dawn