Henry & Hornel – The Druids – Bringing in the Mistletoe

As seen by Linda at Kelvingrove museum Glasgow.

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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

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The Moon and Snow

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The Oak Tree

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The Cattle and Mistletoe

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The Sickle

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

The Dunnichen Stone

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The Aylesford Bucket

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The Glamis Stone

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~ Linda

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Seasons out of time: the traveling Druid

Ogham Stone, Kilmalkedar Church, Ireland

Ogham Stone, Kilmalkedar Church, Ireland

Oftentimes travel is a time to enjoy new experiences, and to immerse yourself in the newness of another place to explore. But when you travel regularly for work, or to see family members, travel can mean being out of your routine and out of sync with how you live your life at home. Travel can become a chore, and when this happens you may find being in another place leaves you feeling out of place and disconnected from your spiritual self. I’m a Druid no matter where I am, but sometimes than connection is a bit hard when you’re tired from travel, possibly facing jet lag, you’re in the wrong season, or you’re in an unfamiliar city. Below are some things I use to connect with my druidry while on the road, to bridge the gap between ‘home’ and ‘here’.

Carrying on habits and creating a familiar space

A lot of my practice while traveling is focused on creating a little spot of calm or focus, or a means to carry on habits I have in my home life. For those of you who have little daily rituals, you may want to think about how you could bring these in to your travel life.  If you don’t have a daily ritual, but you find yourself disconnected when you travel, maybe introducing this to your practice will help you to adjust to traveling.

For example, you could say a small blessing for the day when you make you morning coffee or tea? For me, when I started traveling more often I created a habit of stopping before I leave the house and doing the “three breaths” we’re taught in OBOD’s bardic grade, and as part of ritual. I didn’t want anything too long, or I’d skip it if I was running late. I also wanted something I could do anywhere. I hit on this as a nice way to settle before heading out the door.

Another habit that may help when traveling is to find a way to make a space “yours” when you’re in other people’s houses or in hotels. This can bring a sense of familiarity if you’re on the road, in a different place each day. This could be a small photo frame or piece of fabric you use to create a mini altar for the space. Or you could bring some slippers or a robe that you use at home. Perhaps the blend of tea or coffee you have in the mornings. You could also think about using scents to bring a sense of familiarity to the space: a few drops of essential oil in your hotel room, or a travel candle that you light to bless the room.

Embracing the spirit of place

In Druidry we embrace the spirits of place. I think this is one of the most exciting parts of travel, and it often features in travel guides: experiencing meditation in East Asia, visiting mosques in the Middle East, and visiting the landmarks that are both spiritual sites and geological landmarks like Ayers Rock in Australia or Stonehenge in the UK. But the spirits of place can also be found in the everyday. I try to walk around in the places I visit. It’s good exercise, and you get to see so much more, like the architecture of the homes, the plants in the gardens, the birdsong, and the street stalls. And sometimes you spot funny little differences that help you learn about living in a different environment: Why are there colourful shrines on every corner in Thailand? Why does everyone have bedding hanging over the balcony in Japan? What can this tell me about living here? Or even if we look locally, you can see a different between the way the hills of the Kapiti Coast and upper South Island look compared to those of the central North Island or Taranaki. You can tell the summer comes later the further south you go, because the pohutukawa begin to flower at slightly
different times.

So while on the one hand, I try to retain some of the practices and create the space I have at home, I also try to embrace the difference and get a feel for the place. Sometimes I find things I like so much, the became part of my practice or space at home.

Tech support

I like to travel light. As in, so light you would think I was away for a weekend, not a week. I like to be able to move around airports and bus stations without rushing. But I also want some home comforts. Technology can be a life-saver if you want to have books and audio at your fingertips, but don’t want to carry paperbacks, meditation cds, your gwersu, your cards, notebooks, or whatever else you use in your practice. For me, a lot of my druidic travel habits are supported by my gadgets: a laptop, kindle, and a phone.

The laptop is for work and travel planning, and so I can keep in touch with my community back home. I try not to spend all my time on social media, as I find that it either makes travel feel like a competition of “how amazing is my life right now?”, or can be frustrating when you see how much you’re missing out on back home. But an email or two sharing photos and impressions, or blogging, can be great for sharing your experiences.

The e-reader is for fiction books and brain food: I have hundreds of books on here, covering anything that I may feel like reading. Light fiction for when I’ve had a hard day, books about spirituality to ponder on the train, murder mysteries to take my mind off queuing… I can always find something to pass a few minutes waiting for the bus, or an hour in the immigration queue. If you’re a reader, you can imagine how much easier it is to find calm when faced with delays if you have a book in your hand!

The phone is a general music player/navigator/email checker/app guru. It does many things, but two things I really rely on it for are for music and apps. Much like books, I carry a variety of audio on my phone. When all the change of being in a new place gets to be too much, I find playing the same music I play at home can be grounding. When I want to mediate, I can use the CDs I have of guided meditation. When I want to listen to my gwersu, they’re there in audio format. I also have podcasts of DruidCast, or other shows, to listen to on long journeys so I can stare out the window while “reading”. And my mobile apps cover a lot of things I may want to carry, but don’t have room for. For example, I have the app versions of the Druidcraft Tarot deck and Druid Animal and Plant Oracles. This saves me carrying around a deck thinking that I may want to use it (and sometimes, never taking it out of the bag). I have even used the Plant Oracle to identify trees while in Britain when we didn’t have a plant book with us! I also have a fantastic app called Buddhify, which has a large amount of short mindfulness exercises based around activities like traveling or walking. It’s been fantastic for finding a little spot of calm in the five minutes it takes to walk to the shops, or the ten minutes before the family arrives for the holidays. If you include exercise as part of your daily routine, you can even get apps for yoga, pilates, or strength training. Apps are a great way to take resources with you for when you want to try something new, but you don’t want to end up with a stack of cards or books that you never took out of the bag.

I’m sure some of you will spot that the e-reader and laptop could easily be replaced by a tablet, or all three things can be done with a phone, but I do like having my books separate from my emails, or I get distracted while reading!

Some of the things I’ve mentioned, like mobile apps, podcasts, and audio CDs for guided mediation will be featured in depth on this blog in later posts.

How do you stay in touch with your druidry when you travel? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks, or ways to find peace in transit.

– Nicola