December blog 2016 Keeping the faith in the gathering darkness

We are finally getting some rain here on the mountain. The land has been so parched that my well went dry twice. Each time I had to wait days to use the water, relying on sponge baths and bottled fare. I have never seen conditions like this in New England.
The Canada geese left for the winter about a week ago and the local lake seems barren without them. A few wild ducks are hanging on.

I have a new animal neighbor – a black squirrel has appeared here in the oak forest where I have been for thirty years now. It’s the first time I have seen one in my neck of the woods. For me, black birds such as raven and crows have always heralded deep magic, luck and prosperity. I meditated on the meaning of the black squirrel and what I received was the word “gathering”.

Faced as we are with a very backwards looking new administration (“Let’s make America great again” like it was in the good old days when blacks had few rights and women knew their place) the only way we will overcome the bigotry is by “gathering”. Gathering together in our groups, gathering together to share information and resources, gathering together to oppose the primitive agenda of the great kleptocrat (klep·to·crat ˈkleptəˌkrat/ noun: kleptocrat; plural noun: kleptocrats a ruler who uses political power to steal his or her country’s resources) who says he has no reason to put his massive, international business interests into a blind trust because “the rules don’t apply to him”.

We are already seeing this in the gathering of Native Americans at Standing Rock, water protectors from just about every indigenous nation have come together in a historic effort to preserve the water for millions. We are seeing this in the preparations for a million woman march in DC on inauguration day.

Bill Moyers says it all in a powerful essay on where we are now as a nation. This all could have been avoided if half the eligible voters in America had bothered to make their voices heard. Hillary won the popular vote by two million, but the Great Deceiver managed to win the electoral college – at least as of this writing. Folks are also gathering together to try and oust him before December 19. Stay tuned. We live in fascinating times.

I am working on two books at the moment – a re-release of the old classic “Tree Medicine-Tree Magic” and a book about New England Witches. What with herb classes and a day job, I am keeping myself busy.

Below is the usual collection of book news, nature, climate, archealogy, religion, Celtic and ethics news. Looking forward to Winter Solstice and the return of the Light. May we all receive what we wish for.

A million woman march is being planned for January 21 in Washington DC, but local marches are happening too. Here is one: Boston Women’s March – January 21 12PM-3PM (Alternative to DC) Sat 12 PM · Boston Common

And don’t forget the Standing Rock water protectors as they face the coming winter. You can send cash or checks or donate via PayPal.

Checks or cash may be sent to:
Oceti Sakowin Camp
P.O. Box 298, Cannon Ball, ND 58528

*And please consider buying books for Christmas. If you order from this website you get a signed copy with a personal note! Please specify who you want the books signed to!*

Here’s a thoughtful essay on the financial plight of authors

MORE BOOK NEWS

  • On Thursday, December 29 I will be speaking on the radio at 9 PM – you can tune in here.
  • A new literary journal, “Enheduanna”, is born. I have a piece in there! Published just once a year, they are seeking contributions.
  • Legacy of Druids

    Legacy of Druids

    This book is a fascinating collection of interviews gathered together by Ellen Evert Hopman from some of the most influential people in the pagan/druid world covering the USA, Canada and Britain. It offers a unique view into the modern day world of druidry, what gives it an interesting spin is that the interviews were all carried out in and around 1996 – it is a wonderful time hop to see how druidry was perceived then and what the expectations were and compare them to now.

  • Review in “Green Egg” Samhain 2016 edition A Legacy of Druids By Ellen Evert Hopman, along with a forward by Phillip Carr-Gomm. This book is a compilation of interviews done by Ms. Hopman with prominent Druids over the course of the last twenty years. Interviewees include Phillip Carr-Gomm, Isaac Bonewits, and Arthur Uther Pendragon, along with Practitioners in Spirit such as Olivia Robertson and Susan Henssler ,as well as many scholars such as Ronald Hutton.
    This book shows a unique perspective of the history and development of Modern Druidry. This is indeed a must-read book by anyone following the Druid path, as well as anyone interested in Magickal history. One of my personal favorite quotes from the book is by an Anishinaabe, Elder of the Ojibwa:
    “It is time for the old Earth spirituality of the Europeans to start coming back. We are in real trouble if it doesn’t. People really need to start turning to their own ancestors for help. This is what needs to happen. Some people will be afraid of this. Why else would they burn everyone over there? If you’re following the lead of the Old Ones and people are afraid or critical of you, you know you are doing something right”.
    Once again, I give Legacy of Druids my highest recommendation and certainly hope there is a second edition coming, re-interviewing the same people who are available.

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POLITICS AND ETHICS

 

November blog 2016 Spooky times and election fears

By the time you read this Samhain (Halloween) may have passed but never fear, the old date for the Celtic New Year’s festival was November 11. So you can probably still observe it!

The modern notion of Halloween with its billions of dollars in candy sales has lost the true meaning of the day, which was to give thanks to the Land Spirits who feed and clothe us, and to give thanks to the ancestors who fought, loved and survived just so we could enjoy our own walk upon the Earth. Here are some ideas for things to do, to honor the forces and Beings that sustain us;

 

Offerings for the Spirits of the Dead 

“Hogboon, Hogboy, Hugboy – From the Old Norse haug-búi a mound-dwarf or guardian Spirit that inhabits a burial mound. While these Spirits are helpful to those who offer them gifts such as wine, ale, or milk, they resent interference with their mounds, for example, children playing on them, or cows grazing on them (not to mention the intrusions of archaeologists and tourists!). They especially resent those who come to steal treasure from a mound.

The very best offerings for a Hogboon are the first milk when a cow calves, the first jug of new ale, or the offering of a rooster or a cow from the farmstead. It is very good luck to set up housekeeping near a burial mound, provided the proper offerings are made on a regular basis.

Neglect of the local Hogboon can lead to sickness in the cattle, loss of possessions, or a haunted house. A Hogboon that is well respected and cared for will help with the farm chores and even follow the family if they move house.” From *Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore* (Ellen Evert Hopman, Pendraig Publishing)*You can order a signed copy from this website!*

 

Offerings for the Fairies

“The best time to see Fairies is on the eve of a Fire Festival when they move house, from Fairy mound to Fairy mound. It is particularly important to leave offerings on your Fairy Altar at those times (a wooden or stone construction in the garden where food and drink offerings are left), for their refreshment. Fairies appreciate gifts of milk and ale on those nights, and milk and ale are offered to the Fairies at Samhuinn by pouring libations into tombs.” From Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore (Ellen Evert Hopman, Pendraig Publishing)

“Of course, every farm and homestead must have a section of land that is never plowed and where no human ever goes (The Gudeman’s Croft). Wild weeds and grasses are allowed to grow there undisturbed, as a shelter for the Brownies and other Fairies.”

From *Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore* (Ellen Evert Hopman, Pendraig Publishing)

Halloween, Samhain, Lá Samhna, Calan Gaeof (October 31, November 11 old style)

Make offerings to a sacred fire; dry herbs, whiskey, butter, ghee

Make offerings of rosemary (memories) to the fire

Leave a dish of the feast for the ancestors

Pour red wine, honey, cider or milk in the fields and on the stones

Offer ale and oatmeal gruel to the sea, in thanks for the seaweed and the fish

Leave a little of the harvest in each field and in the water

Leave a blessing for the trees

Gather the family and tell stories about grandparents, aunts and uncles who have passed. Bring out old pictures and remind the children of who they were and what they accomplished.

By the time you read this you may already have voted. Far be it for me to tell you how to vote. But please consider this;

The number of hate groups in the USA (and also in Europe incidentally) such as the KKK has increased dramatically since 2014. There is one candidate who has emboldened these kinds of monsters who are far worse than any Halloween specter. That candidate has deliberately allied himself with the “alt-right” who are misogynists and racists. His campaign is being managed by them and they are now creeping out of the shadows when before they remained hidden. He has given them a voice. Please think of the future of the country and of what it will look like if this candidate and his minions are given the dignity of high office.

As others have pointed out, Democracy can be lost by apathy and neglect.

*Yule is coming! Why not consider ordering books from this website. You will get a signed copy and a personal note from the author!*

BOOK NEWS

  • A new review just came out….
  • A Legacy of Druids: Book review by Ulchabhán

    Legacy of Druids

    Legacy of Druids

    Normally I am not drawn to reading collections of interviews – mainly because it is not easy to provide a cohesive narrative and I tend to get lost in a lot of the back and forth views. However, Ellen Evert Hopman’s book was a very pleasant surprise and an engaging and informative read.Each conversation should be taken in the context of the time of each individual’s practice as well as the particular connection of their varied developed practices. I liked that Ms. Hopman put an obvious amount of thought into trying to organize the insights shared into approachable topics of interest.While it is apparent from the well-researched variety of individuals who have been active in the Druid community over the decades that there is a great deal of diversity in what really constitutes “Druidism,” as a practicing Druid I felt a sense of underlying cohesiveness. As I read through each discussion, I enjoyed once again reviewing my own developed thoughts on what brought me on this journey. Each interview had its own flavor and presented a constantly morphing intellectual and spiritual case for all the threads that have woven our experiences into the truly rich and evolving Path I still walk with Joy and Gratitude.This book should be considered part of any library touching on the fire, music and connection of being a Druid. This is one I will return to many times to catch the layers of meaning more fully.Walk with Wisdom, Strength and GratitudeUlchabhán

  • And another review!
    Wednesday, October 05, 2016Review of Legacy of Druids: Conversations with Druid leaders of Britain, the USA and Canada, past and present by Ellen Evert Hopman (2016) Moon Books.Full disclosure: I was, to my amazement then and now, interviewed for this book. That is not why I like it, though I confess it is why I wanted to read it in the first place.Why Review Legacy of Druids on Brigit’s Sparkling Flame?I wouldn’t normally review a book like this on BSF as it isn’t actually about Brigit. However, there are two reasons to:1) it contains an early interview of me (September 3, 1996) which discusses my own spiritual path, and of course that involves the origin of the Daughters of the Flame in 1993 and its workings till 1996 (pp 29-39).2) More generally, it is fascinating from a historical perspective for Neo-Pagans generally, particularly but not exclusively those who identify as Druids or follow a Celtic-based path. Many Brigidines of course are in that number.Self-Indulgent MomentIt is a little weird reading the me of twenty-odd years ago. I notice I have mellowed. I want to correct two things I said in the book, and then I can forget me for the rest of this review:1) I was not able to carry through with my intention (a mere year ago) to stop producing the Daughters of the Flame newsletter. It is too central to the group. On, in less labour-intensive form, it goes.2) I say at one point, “On the way to the monastery I passed a high school called Saint Brigit’s. I had been into a couple of churches with shrines to St. Brigit, in Melbourne and elsewhere, and I found myself praying to Her as Goddess more pointedly than I had in the past. When I passed the school I said to my companion that I wondered what the students would think if they knew their school was named after a Pagan Goddess? (pg 32)”I no longer think that is a fair question. Though Brigit to me, and to most NeoPagans, is a goddess as well as a saint, I believe now that historically this was not likely the case, that it is a much more recent fusion. I won’t get into the argument for that here, just say that I would not ask that question in the same way, now.Brigit in Legacy of DruidsApart from my interview (pg 29-39), Brigit is mentioned a couple of times by other interviewees. Lady Olivia Roberston has an amusing reference to the “silliest poem” used by Ross Nicholls (progenitor of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids) in honour of Brigit in his early Imbolc rituals.

    “It rather went like this … ‘Ah, sure now, we invoke the golden-haired blue-eyed Brighid, the sweet Brighid who gives us the good cow’s milk.’ This ghastly image … ” Pg. 51

    On to the Main Review!

    Synopsis: A thoughtful, chatty book—reading it is like visiting, mead in hand and cross-legged on the forest floor, or sipping tea and nibbling dainties in an overstuffed chair, one fascinating person after another as they reflect, through their spiritual history, opinion, and advice, an exciting time in the evolution of modern Druidry and Celtic Neo-Paganism. Far from giving a single self-praising paean, the subject is pondered with care, scepticism, and occasional grumpiness from a multitude of viewpoints.

    Druidism is a way of life. For some it is a religion. But either way, it is a belief system that honors the natural world in its many manifestations, a system that can work with other religious beliefs or stand just as well on its own … No one’s perception of it is quite the same.
    TopazOwl (pg. 102)

    The interviews for Legacy of Druids were done twenty and more years ago, in pubs, at gatherings, through letters and email. One might expect they would be a little stale after so long, perhaps no longer relevant, but this isn’t so. Indeed, with updated information tucked around the interviews where needed, they are an absorbing read, all the more so with the advantage of hindsight. They are fuelled by stories of each subject’s spiritual path, their vision and practice, their concerns and hopes for the movement, and by their diverse perceptions of the history and meaning of Druidry. Hopman, herself a modern Druid, and therefore versed in much of the history and many of the issues of the movement, asks brief, broad questions and allows the interviewee to take flight.

    The text is broken into four sections: “Druidry of the Spirit”, “Druidry and Politics”, “Scholars and Writers”, and “Musicians, Artists and Poets”, with introductory materials by Hopman, John Matthews (1996), and Philip Carr-Gomm (2015). Carr-Gomm’s “Failed Predictions, Hopes and Fears” and “The Core Issues”  give a useful overview for those (like me) who are not intimately acquainted with modern Druidry. Some of his comments seem a touch anti-Celtic Reconstructionist, which is unfortunate, but this is not a theme of the book.

    Elsewhere, Ronald Hutton gives a comparison of UK and American NeoPaganism, and, in greater detail, of British Druids and Wiccans, including in his observations the “interesting ironies”—or inconsistencies—found in each path.

    Erynn Rowan Laurie covers a lot of ground in her interview, offering many elements of belief and practice gleaned from the study of the ancient Celts which can be employed in our own practice. Although she is in the “Scholars and Writers” section, her views on the spiritual and social practice of poetry, her call to live out Celtic values like strength, honesty, and strong community relationships, and her final behest that we “Pursue the Salmon of Wisdom” (pg 215) struck strong chords in me in terms of my own spiritual practice.

    Idealism, hope, humour, and contemplation fill the book. I think the greatest value for me is the opportunity to see the unfolding of each individual’s spiritual path—the seeds in their young lives that led them to grow in the ways they have, and the fruits that are born of those seeds. The unselfconscious innocence of these stories is moving and often inspiring. It is fascinating to peek into the heads of such a broad array of practitioners, from the most practical to the utterly fey, to learn what they are reacting to both in the greater world and within modern Druidry and NeoPaganism, and how they and their companions have helped to shape those paths. The unique voice of each subject, expressing their intentions, their paths, how they have structured their groups and why, kept me absorbed long after I had intended to stop reading each night. They base there practice on received spirit communications, on meditations and dreams, on the teachings of friends and family, on knuckle-biting scholarly research, or on a combination of these. Some don’t identify strictly as druids, but follow a Celtic-inspired path. Portrayals of meetings between modern Druids and Catholics, of Druid groups splitting off from or working together with others, and so on lend the juice of gossip to the mix.

    I am intrigued, too, to see how various practitioners conceive of the history and meaning of Druidry, and what they choose to focus on within that understanding. Some of the ideas of ancient times and lineages read like wholecloth pseudo-history, where other histories seem grounded to greater and lesser degrees in evidence-based scholarship. I can’t help squirming when I read occasional assertions of what long dead people believed and how they behaved when I am pretty sure we can’t possibly know. But of course it’s not the purpose of this book to define for the reader the True History of Druidism. It is to learn the beliefs of modern Druids, and their views of their history are as individual and informative as their religious beliefs.

    Just as definitons of Druidry vary, ideas of who is a Celt, or who is entitled to follow such a path, are disparate. For instance, Kaledon Naddair in his rough and righteous rant warns against the misguided appropriation of Celtic culture: “ … the only people that have an automatic entitlement to the riches of the Keltic cultural tradition are Kelts! Kelts by race, birth, language and cultural upbringing in Keltic homelands! (pg 198)” Equally firm about the need to steer away from cultural appropriation and support the struggles of Celtic peoples is Erynn Rowan Laurie. “Respect for modern Celtic communities and languages [is] essential. The Celtic people are still under siege in all their remaining lands. Languages are dying, as are traditional practices, songs and stories. Going about trying to recreate something 2000 years old while ignoring the plight of those people’s descendants is nothing short of arrogant and disrespectful (pg 204)”.  However, her view of who might legitimately follow a Celtic Pagan path differs from Naddair. “I think that inclusiveness is important. We can’t rely on genealogy or geography to determine who is ‘Celtic’. The historical Celts roamed all over Europe, and lands beyond. Anyone worthy might be taken into the tribe through marriage or adoption (pg 205)”.

    In the end, I’m not sure what percentage of what is represented here is very closely linked to the ancient Celtic world-view—or what little we actually understand of it—though of course this varies from interview to interview. But what it does undoubtedly contain is a modern world-view that is lively, thoughtful, and filled with insights, which does indeed have elements of the ancestors’s ways, or at the very least a reverence for those ancestors, a reverence for the earth we are born of, and a joie de vivre that must ensure its continuation into the future. How we may see modern Druidry in another twenty years is a tantalizing question indeed.

    Summary

    I am delighted to have read this book. It is interesting, it is useful, and it helps to set a framework to our endeavours and remind us of what we are as Celtic-inspired NeoPagans: what we aspire to, what our responsibility is to ourselves and to our world. If our practice as NeoPagans of any stripe does what so many of these practitioners are in part attempting to do—change our relationship to self and others and shift our impact on the earth and her children for the better—then it is far more than a self-rooted exercise, however pleasant or helpful, it is a gift of healing to the world. For it to be such, we need to live up to the ideals we put forward in interviews like these, and leave factionalism and self-interest behind.

    Posted by  Mael Brigde

  • Secret Medicines from Your Garden gets coverage in Mother Earth Living!
    SecretMedicinesofGarden

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