Druid Heart: Living a Druid Life

Living life from a Druid's perspective

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Joanna van der Hoeven

Joanna van der Hoeven

Author, poet, singer and dancer, Joanna van der Hoeven (Autumn Song) is a Druid Priestess and Animist who honours the natural world around her and seeks to live with awareness and compassion. She has released three books, her latest being Zen Druidry and is currently writing two more for release in 2014. She writes the main blog for Moon Books, as well as having her own blog channel at Wordpress, called Down the Forest Path.

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Beltane and the Singleton

Beltane is fast upon us – here in Suffolk, the hawthorn is in bloom already, and I have heard the first cuckoo of summer.  The oak leaves are just coming out, and the beech and ash are lagging behind, sluggish after their long sleep.  The garden is abloom, and the forest is filled with bluebells, their soft energy shimmering in the sunlight. It is, indeed, Beltane.

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Not satisfied with the response to a complaint that I had made at the beginning of April regarding two sexist comments that Ken Bruce had made at the beginning of his BBC Radio 2 show on 2 April, I have written back to the BBC and am sharing this story with you. What we say DOES matter, and we need to speak out against what we think is wrong. As a Druid, I take speech quite seriously (when I'm not being The Fool, but there is method in my madness there as well - indeed, a good friend of mine this weekend said that I am one of the most intelligent people she knows, and also the silliest - but I digress...)

What happened was that I wrote in to BBC Radio 2 because Ken Bruce had called Lynne Bowles a "whale" (in jest) and in the next breath said something about her putting on a French maid's uniform. Many people would say that taking this out of context is making it appear worse than it actually is. What I am saying is that the context of sexism doesn't matter - it's still sexism. Ways to undermine women's power in our society is becoming more and insidious where it cannot be achieved through brute force. Here is the correspondence that I have received back from my complaint, and my further response.

I am putting this here on my blog as well as my Facebook page. My original post in which I tagged the BBC has mysteriously disappeared from my Facebook timeline. It is my intention to make this public, and whether it is simply a Facebook error or a more targeted silencing, I shall never know - what I do know is that they cannot touch this blog.

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  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Dear Madam/Sir at the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit, I began this complaint with regards to remarks made by Ken Bruce. What I wou
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Dear Mr Martin, Would I be endearing myself to you if I called you a whale? I'm not trying to be deliberately sexist, but how abo
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    UPDATE: Endearing? And deliberate or not, it isn't right! Dear Ms van der Hoeven Thanks for contacting us again regarding Ken Br
Peace - Learning When to Speak and When to Keep Silent

This past week I have had to hold my tongue. Sometimes it felt like I was holding my tongue so hard all I could taste was blood. 

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  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Thank you for your kind words, Tashi. x
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Tashi means auspicious and Delek means fine or well. From Tibetan Buddhism. Different authors render it as "Blessings and good l
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you so much for this perfectly timed message. I know exactly what you mean! I was called out - quite politely, but still

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Women in Druidry

Within Paganism, there appear to be an equal number of women and men in leadership roles.  One of the most popular Druids today is Emma Restall Orr, one of the most popular Wiccans is Starhawk.  Heathenry has Galina Grasskova and Diana L Paxon.  There are countless others in all pagan paths and traditions that stand alongside the men in equal roles of leadership, teaching and more. 

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  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    I hadn't heard that about Welsh bards - interesting!
  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter says #
    This post makes me want to go explore Welsh mythology more. I hadn't picked up on a passivity in the females of the stories, but I

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Not Giving It Up

Everybody wants you

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Right on, Joanna. You do not carry that chip alone! Many of the songs from my era had the same message, which I only began to r
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Hi Ted! Thank you for your kind words! I wholly agree with you. x
  • aought
    aought says #
    It's so ubiquitous in our culture, you don't even hear it in the lyrics. I remember being quite old before it dawned on me that th
Welcoming the Light at the Spring Equinox

The sun rises ever earlier, the days becoming longer. Soon the balance will tip, when the night gives way to the lengthening days. The spring equinox falls on March 20th this year, and after a very wet winter I am very much looking forward to it.

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Here in my garden in Greece Henry the tortoise sunned in the garden for a little while then went back to sleep when it clouded ove

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Elen - the Wild Spirit

She is with me - I can feel Her as soon as I step out the door.  She calls to me, she pulls me further away from the houses of humanity, deeper into the wilds; the windswept heath, the dark forest, the bright birch glades.  I smile and answer her call with a song in my heart, my footsteps getting lighter and lighter as I head out to meet Her. I walk taller, with more grace, my body flowing and moving without the restrictions that are usually placed upon it.  I feel an almost eldritch tingling in my blood - the awen is awakened.

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  • Jenn
    Jenn says #
    I love this so much!
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Beautiful. Thank you so much.
Desperately seeking Druid: The over-sexualised images in D&D fantasy games

I love playing Dungeons and Dragons.  It is where I first came across the term, "Druid".  In the Forgotten Realms series, there was a Druid whose concern was in the balance, in keeping encroaching man out of the wilderness, and who could shapechange into a white hawk, summon insects to harangue enemy spellcasters, throw down lightning bolts and other such things.  I left the Druids in the realm of fantasy until much later in life, when I found out that Druidry is a reality, albeit a little different to the fantasy novel character…

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  • J'Karrah
    J'Karrah says #
    What? You don't find a chain mail brazier, leather thong, and 9 inch platform stripper heels to be appropriate female battle atti
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    It's such a shame that you had to modify all the miniatures, isn't it? Elder Scrolls is quite good, but I don't do computer game
  • ScarletteSpider
    ScarletteSpider says #
    When i'm looking for a picture to represent my character, do you have any idea how long and hard i have to look to find a female i
Matriarchal or Patriarchal ideal? The utopian myth...

I’ve often read that is it due to a male-dominated, patriarchal culture that the world is in such a mess, with war, power games, aggressiveness and other such “male” attributes to blame. I would posit, with respect and a little humour, that these people have never introduced two new female cats to each other…

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    You might enjoy Women at the Center by Peggy Reeves Sanday and Societies of Peace by Heidi Goettner-Abendroth. Matriarchal societi
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Thanks Carol - I shall defininitely look into it! x
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Lovely expression, Joanna - and so very reasonable! Your vision is so clear, I wonder that anyone could see it any other way. I r
Riding the tides of perimenopause

Riding the tides of perimenopause, I find that my sense of self, ideas and concepts that I held about myself are shifting like pebbles on a shingle beach, never in the same place twice, forming new solid banks and spits jutting out into the vastness of the ocean.  I live right on the coast of the North Sea, and am finding inspiration and a sense of kinship with the ocean that I have never felt before.

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  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Thank you so much Lizann - awen blessings to you! x
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Yes!!!!!!! Blessings on your body and your being in this amazing transformation! I'm a little ahead of you in the process and th

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Druid Magic

Druids aren’t associated with magic in the same way that other Pagan traditions, such as Wicca or Witchcraft seem to be.  Yet I’ve found that in every spiritual path, there are elements of magic contained within that are often very similar in nature.

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Death, Impermanence and Reincarnation

I haven't sung for a while now. Sometimes when you're sad or grieving, your body and soul just don't want to sing.

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The Grail Mysteries

These past few months I have been delving into Grail stories and mythology, looking for their inner messages and healing stories. I have been working with Jenah Telyndru’s Avalon Within: A Sacred Journey of Myth, Mystery and Inner Wisdom since September, and have just finished reading Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Crossing to Avalon: A Woman’s Midlife Pilgrimage.  There is a lot of resonance and wisdom in both these books, that has opened up my eyes to the Grail stories and also the wisdom of Avalon in ways I never could have dreamt of.

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Winter Solstice: The Darkness Within

The winter solstice is fast upon us, even though technically the shortest night has already been upon us (for a brain-thumping explanation, see http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/12/the-astronomical-hijinks-of-the-shortest-day-of-the-year/282109/).  Thoughts turn inwards at this time of year, when in the darkness we are confronted with our shadow selves, should we choose to face them.  We have the opportunity to learn more of ourselves, and in doing so, better serve not only ourselves but the world.

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After having spent a lovely weekend in Glastonbury with a dear friend, I noticed that there is a lot of focus on the triumvirate of Maiden, Mother and Crone. Walk into any shop and you will find this triple goddess littering shelves, books about these aspects and people talking about where they are in relation to Her.

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  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Thank you for sharing! x
  • Piper
    Piper says #
    I have always viewed the triple goddess and other divisions of the divine as the energy you touch and the aspects you claim when n
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    I'm very fond of Maiden-Mother-Crone myself, but recognize that it's probably a historical anomaly. (It comes, pretty much whole c

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The Wild Gods I love the word wilderness.  It conjures up images of windswept moors and heathland, dark tangling forests and craggy mountaintops.  That spirit of the untamed, the uncivilised, that spark that humanity cannot touch, much in the same way as deity is traditionally viewed.  For many Druids, that wilderness is deity – it has the power to give or sustain life or the power to kill.  It has not and, in many places, cannot be touched by human hands, existing without any human interference.  I like to think that same dark spark exists within our own human souls as well, offering us the sanctity of the wilderness within.

The concept of the “untouched” wilderness is an interesting one.  I rather wonder if it has anything to do with secular religious views that have crept into our culture predominantly for the last thousand years or so.  The concept of the virgin forest, the virgin wilderness – I have to say, I really dislike the term.  It is nice to think that there are places in the world where humans have never been – but still, it’s the terminology that is rather uncomfortable.  I have been to places where humans have lived with the landscape, and who live there no more – the wilderness has returned.  Where stone buildings once stood, nature has reclaimed it, slowly destroying it until nothing remains but the songs on the wind.  Virginity cannot ever be reclaimed – and in this regard, I find the term does not work within the context of the natural world.  As it works in cycles, what happened once can be undone.

As wilderness flows with the cycles, it shows that it cares little about anything else. It exists to exist – there is no other.  It follows its own song, and will continue to do so.  Humans may interfere with the existing wilderness, “taming” it if you will, but it will continue to carry on attempting to restore itself to its original state.  It is that spirit, that sense of soul song reclaiming itself again and again that I find so fascinating.  The weeds will continue to sprout in the garden, whether we are farming organically or not (I really hope that all reading this do!).  The wind will continue to blow regardless of skyscrapers, bridges, mountaintops or 500 year old yew trees.

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Courage

As the darkness approaches, I find myself thinking more and more about courage. What is courage? Personally, I think courage is so subjective – there is no one definition that would suit everyone. Yet I shall give it a go in any case.

The dictionary defines courage as: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. I would posit that courage is the quality of mind/spirit that enables a person to face difficulties, etc in spite of fear. It is just not true that the brave know no fear – I believe that they simply get on with it. There is no such thing as a fearless person, unless that person has not the mental capacity for it, having suffered physical brain or emotional trauma.

What causes fear? For the most part, fear is the unknown. As humans, we crave constancy, security. We’re not especially fond of change, at least in great quantities. We fear what we cannot see – many are afraid of the dark. Is this an instinctual fear, based on what could attack and eat us from the shadows? I had an experience a couple of weeks ago, in my own backyard, where I went to offer some food at my altar – a large dark shadow that was not usually there made me stop in my tracks. A bear, my first thought was. Then my brain worked through the processes of logic – there are no bears in Britain. I’m not in Canada anymore. What animal would be big enough to create this? A stag? Would he attack me in this, the rutting season? No, he couldn’t get through the hedge with his rack at this time of year… After going through these thought processes (which probably took less than a second) I simply stepped forward to investigate, and found it to be a large branch from the beech tree that came down in the high winds. I smiled at the brain’s way of dealing with it and made my offering, honouring the darkness and shadows as well.

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November skies

There's just something about a November sky.

For many, November can be a month of hard coping, with the clocks changing, the nights drawing in, the colder air and wetter weather.  Yet we often miss the beauty of this month, lost in our own solipsism.  Looking around us, we see that there is so much more than our own worlds, than our own lives. As Bjork said, "nature is ancient and surprises us all"…

Just getting over a bout of chicken pox, it would be so easy at this time to fall into introspection, into dulled apathy or even despair.  Having an illness of any kind can turn our thoughts inwards and, it has to be said, not always in a good way.  Looking outside helps. Literally.

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Samhain and the Ancestors

What with the rage of the storm St Jude passing over our area on Monday morning, we were without power for a couple of days (as well as being without land line phones -mobile masts were also out).  At this time of year, when the clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in, the change can be quite dramatic, especially when you are living without power.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you for the timely reminder.

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Samhain Approaching...

As I sit here, writing this, the rain taps at the window, the wind howling down the street, carrying with it the scent of winter and the first of the autumn leaves. The sky is fast moving and furious – low dark grey clouds set amidst a backdrop of pure white/grey.  The central heating has been turned on.  The apples are juicy on the trees.  The starlings are flocking together. Welcome, Autumn.

My favourite season – as you may have guessed. From bright, sunny days where the sun shows the last of its strength, to watery, wind-filled days like these, it is a season of change like no other.  Quick, altogether too quickly, it is over, at least the Fall is, when the leaves change and drop to the ground.  After that, it seems Winter is here – only allowing Autumn a brief time of grace to shine in her beauty before all is blanketed under the dreamy cold slumber of Winter.

It is third week of October – and the hectic days of summer leading to the Equinox have long passed.  I feel I can almost catch my breath – almost.  The main bulk of the harvest is done – both agriculturally and in a personal sense.  I have worked hard this year, and the rewards have been great.  There are always disappointments – from the tomatoes that didn’t do well to the vagaries of life.  But Autumn, with her beauty, captures our hearts and our minds, our attention, and causes us to stop, to listen and watch Her before She is gone.

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  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Thank you, and to you Lizann! x
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    another lovely post - thank you - and blessings to you in this wonderful season of change

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