Druid Camp and Druid College

2014.07.24-01-Druid-Camp-Windmill-aI’m back from my second time at Druid Camp, and it was brilliant again!

This year’s camp had a very different feel for me than the last one. Part of that was the weather (last year was glorious sunshine, this one was near-constant rain), part of that was the different theme and speakers and part of that was the simple fact that it wasn’t my first time any more.

Different isn’t bad though, by any means. Just that while last year’s camp felt exuberant and fun, this year was more challenging. The workshops I attended and the group work involved facing up to some of my own fears and anxieties, and overcoming them, at least in part. Hey, I only had a social-anxiety panic attack once, which is pretty good for me!

The highlight of the camp was the amazing gig by Inkubus Sukkubus on the Saturday night, which had everyone up and dancing, cold and rain be damned!

And, as before, the real fun was found in the impromptu conversations over tea in the cafe, or by the fire (when it was dry enough to light), with old friends and new, including the ever-wonderful Penny Billington and Philip “Greywolf” Shallcrass.

In other news, since I had my “get real” moment where I decided to stop dabbling with Druidry and start getting serious, I emailed Joanna van der Hoeven of Druid College UK. Knowing their course starts in October, I wasn’t optimistic about enrolling this year, but by one of those amazing bits of “cosmic coincidence” (to borrow a phrase from Greywolf), there was one place left. And, the day before I started packing for Druid Camp, I got an email to say my application was accepted!

So, I plan on finishing my Bardic Review for OBOD this week (just to get it done), and then I have a reading list to work through to prepare for the start of my Year One studies with Druid College UK. Druid College does in-person residential weekends, and works to train apprentices of Druidry rather that just students of Druidry. I’m seriously excited by this, and am really looking forward to seeing where this new journey on the Druid path will take me.

*Header image from http://www.druidcamp.org.uk

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In this farewell…

In Druidry we sometimes talk about “ancestors of spirit”, those who we have no direct connection to, may never even have met, but who have inspired us and our lives.

Growing up as a metal fan, and a weird kid, Linkin Park were one of those bands that seemed like they just *got* me. And, as I grew older, their music developed and matured as well. I’ve never been a super-fan but they have always been there as a constant presence.

I have no words on the death of Chester Bennington. Death is a tragedy, and suicide even more so. As someone who struggles with depression, I can empathise.

So, here’s a reminder, if you are struggling at any point, reach out to someone. A friend or loved one, or call a helpline:

UK – Samaritans 116 123

USA – NSPL 1800 2738255

Tonight I’m raising a glass to a true ancestor of spirit. Thanks for the music.

Dabbling and getting real

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I’ll admit it, I’m a dabbler. Like so many people who come from one very rigid, organised and structured religion (in my case Catholicism) and somehow find their way to the free-flowing streams of Paganism, I’ve been tentatively hovering around the edges for the better part of a decade now without really commiting.

Now, edges are great. I’m in love with liminal spaces and liminal times, with the boundaries between the realms. Seashores, riverbanks, woodland margins, these things are at the heart of my Druidry. But there comes a time when “liminal” can become “lazy”, when initial hesitation becomes inertia. Once you’ve stuck your toe in the water, eventually it’s time to dive in and swim, or walk away.

In his excellent book The Path of Paganism, which I am currently reading (review coming soon!), Druid writer John Beckett talks about his own “get serious or move on” moment, after eight years of dabbling in Paganism. That defining moment led him to where he is today, as one of the most active, eloquent and thoughtful Druids I know.

Recently, I’ve had a similar sort of experience. While working through the Cernunnos ritual in John’s book, I had what can only be described as a religious experience. I know, I know. I’m the sceptical (read cynical) non-theist who’s the last person to talk about having religious experiences, but there it is. I won’t go into details, not least because one of the classic hallmarks of religious experience (per William James, 1901) is “ineffability”, the inability to fully describe it in words. I had a crack at using a bit of Bardistry to portray it in my “Encounter” poem, but it falls short.

What I took from that, though, was a sense that it was time to stop dabbling. Stop reading *about* Druidry and start learning to *be* Druid, in the real world, not just in my head.

Get real, or give up.

Quite what that looks like, I’m not sure yet. It will no doubt be a challenge, a long process, and a lot of hard (though I hope rewarding) work. I fear it may mean edging out of my introvert shell and actually (gasp) talking to actual people.

I must confess (and it feels like a confession, with all the attendant sense of shame and guilt) that the Bardic course with OBOD left me (ironically) uninspired. And ADF are great, but they feel alien, not rooted in the traditions of Druidry here in this land. So where does that leave my Druidry?

I have some potentially interesting developments coming up, details of which I won’t share until they’re finalised, but I think it is time for me to find, or create, my place, as a Druid, as a Pagan, as an animist, in this rich, complicated, painful, messy and beautiful world.

I will still forever love the liminal, but it’s time to get real.

Encounter – a poem

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Night wind stomps hoofbeats through the briar,
Three flames summon faltering shadows
On the faceless face of one who sits:
A name uncertain, a presence felt.
More real than real, more dream than seen –
A dream of trees, of branches like antlers,
Or antlers like oaks.
A storm, a calm, a snake grasped without fear.
An offer made and one returned:
The torc held out, well worth the weight.
Now falls silence and the rain.
Listen.