Nwyfre

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The word Nwyfre, which I mention in my previous post, comes from an old Welsh term meaning “sky” or “heaven”. In Druidry, however, it takes on a deeper meaning, and one which deserves a bit of thought.

Nwyfre can be seen as the “life force” of nature, the energy or power which moves through and within all things and holds all things together, both living beings and things which we usually think of as non-living such as rocks, streams, mountains and the land itself.

Nwyfre is not, I hasten to point out, a scientific concept like gravity or the weak and strong nuclear forces which, in a very real way, do move all things and hold the universe together. Like most things in Druidry, it is a poetic, mythic, archetypal concept by which we can connect to nature in an holistic way, involving the body and the emotions as well as the rational mind. Of course, one could argue that the fundamental physical forces recognised by science are themselves manifestations of Nwyfre, in a sort of “theory of everything” way, but I’m not going to go there in this post.

If the idea of Nwyfre sounds familiar, but the name does not, then that may be because you’ve encountered it in another context: the chi of Chinese philosophy, the prana of Hinduism, the Tao of Taoism, or perhaps more likely: the Force from the Star Wars movies. George Lucas borrowed from martial arts and Eastern philosophy when creating his Jedi Order, and the Force is a direct analogy to the Japanese ki.

This concept seems to be a human universal across cultures, in fact as John Michael Greer points out in The Druid Magic Handbook, “The only languages that don’t [have a word for the life force] are the ones spoken in the industrial nations of the modern West”. It’s as if Nwyfre has been banished from modern society, which prefers to see the world as simply inert material to be used and exploited for human greed. How convenient.

“Outside the industrial West”, Greer writes, “the life force is just as much a part of life as bodies and minds are. In modern Japan, for example, people still talk about the state of their ki on a regular basis. The word for courage in Japanese is yuki, literally “active ki“, depression is fukeiki, “sluggish ki” [etc.].”

Nwyfre is not simply an idea to believe or disbelieve, however. In fact, “belief” has no part in my own approach to Druidry.As a non-theist and naturalist, I find it impossible to simply “believe” things without experiencing them myself.

Nwyfre, however, is to be experienced. Meditation, especially barefoot on the earth, is a great way to experience the flow of Nwyfre. Starting with the soles of your feet, feel them against the earth, feel the force of them pushing down and the equal force of the ground holding them up. Feel them tingle with subtle energy. And then work up, through your legs, torso, arms and head, until you are aware of your whole body being filled with Nwyfre, and then feel your own Nwyfre connecting with that flowing through the earth beneath and all around you.

It may take a while to experience anything, but even if you don’t, then you have had a nice relaxing breathing session and got some fresh air, so nothing is wasted.

The Druidry Handbook, also by Greer, contains exercises for connecting with the Solar Nwyfre, the Telluric (Earth) Nwyfre, and the Nwyfre of trees as you do your walking meditations, and I recommend getting a copy and trying them out.

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