Cat Treadwell — professional Druid and nature-mystic - gives us a perspective from the English countryside.

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Worship & Community

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

It's been a while, but I'm back again, lovely readers! I'm currently hard at work on my second book (amongst other projects, as you'll see below), but I will certainly continue to post here as and when I can. Comments and topic requests always welcome.

At this time of year, it's easy to understand why our ancestors (both actual and spiritual), those wise women and cunning men, were considered remote, unusual, untouchable, even fearsome.

As Autumn moves into Winter here in the UK, we feel our natural, animal pull to dig in, hibernate, take time within the darkness to assess the previous year and anticipate the time to come - but I doubt any busy society has ever really allowed that to happen, except when they have no choice. Stoke up the fire, head to the pub or communal house, light and laughter against the outside world.

(Photo - 'Autumn in the New Forest', from Glastonbury Goddess Temple)

For some of us, though, it's such a strong urge that it's almost impossible to ignore. Our connection to the wider world than just the human draws us to our own personal cave, our home on the edge of society, where we can continue with our own practice, work and relationship to those darker aspects of life. Samhain is an obvious example, but the simple act of surviving the cold times carries its lessons.

Of course, modern folk in the Western World can simply turn on a light, central heating, or even the kettle to make a lovely cup of tea. We more or less take such things for granted, and get on with what we've got to do every day. And this is the balance, the tug-of-war, which this season is presenting to me (and goodness knows how many others) right now.

My challenge is to answer my current call to go deeper into the darkness of my personal practice, to face my own demons and learn their lessons, to banish or accept as appropriate. At the same time, I'm called upon socially to organise regional Moots and gatherings for like-minded Pagans in my area, prepare workshops for those seeking knowledge and advice, and generally keep those bills paid.

I have to do both. I know this. It's just a matter of how.

Part of me feels the draw of becoming a hermit, of ignoring telephone, internet or doorbell to simply hunker down into my own world for a while. With regard to writing, that's always attractive (yes, even on the difficult days!). But this simply isn't an option. My local community, great as they are, aren't able to sustain this Druid while she works - that's just not how society is any more.

Or... is that part of the lesson?

Recently, I've been looking at the idea of combining public and private Pagan practice. It's something that others have tested before, with varied results. From the beautiful Goddess Temple in Glastonbury, England, to the powerful Temple of Sekhmet in Arizona, USA, I've spoken with professional Priestesses and seen how they work. Folk travel from far and wide to these places, to reconnect, learn, sustain their faith, explore... so many things. And yet, such public Pagan 'nodes' are few and far between.

(Photo - Glastonbury Goddess Temple Hall)

Obviously we all have our places to practice - the natural world is abundant, after all. Little wooded glades, small private altars, Grove or Coven meetings in a private garden. Lots of places to go.

But it's those set location, sacred space held by committed Priests, that draw us. The atmosphere of a beautiful, ancient Christian Church; the sheer power of Stonehenge; the mystery of the Taj Mahal. Or the tiny Protestant church near my parents in Sussex - built by the Normans, and maintained today by community groups. The intention is set, the space is created and held. This is spiritual magic.

I've been exploring how viable it would be to set up Pagan 'temple' space near to my home in the Midlands. There's options - if I win the Lottery, a gorgeous former hotel with lots of land close to home, going for £2.5 million. Or the local Salvation Army Hall, up for sale for a comparative snip at £100,000. 

Intention is there. Putting the idea out on Facebook and Twitter has resulted in tentative but enthusiastic support. But we're in a recession - nobody has any money right now. Would an online fundraising drive bear enough fruit? Or am I looking for a friendly landlord or land-owner, willing to allow such activity?

I have a Donations page on my website, a practice that is gradually springing up online to thank those who work hard doing what I do. I've currently had three donations made. I am hugely grateful, of course, but it's not enough to live on.

Does that make me a (kind of) modern wise-woman? Admittedly tapping away on a fairly old PC, but with cat asleep next to her, pondering how best to minister a still-evolving path for many. We feel the tug of connection, through my words and the electricity wires that carry them. Ancient and modern, in balance - and needing support if valued enough.

This is the modern world. Spiritual intention is fine, but a business plan must be drawn up, permissions sought... and tangible community found.

The question, then, is how much do modern communities (both geographically local and virtual, online, covering many thousands of miles but no less tight for all that) wish for such spaces? How much do we, as Pagans, support our own, for our own benefit? This isn't just sending for a book from Amazon to learn a money-making spell. This is actively walking the path, money where mouth is, representing in a very public way.

I do believe that it can be done. I'm at the very early stages of planning, but am certainly looking. I have no doubt that there's a call for such space.

As a wise friend said, 'put it to the Gods'. So I am. But all thoughts welcome.

We as Pagans stand on the edge of 'mainstream' society, but we gather together in shared spirituality (no matter the title or shade of belief structure). From supporting Pagan businesses, to individual practitioners. How much do we truly live our Paganism, together?

Onward, into the dark months. Exciting to see what will germinate, and what buds will appear come Spring.

(Photo - 'Moonrise over the Temple', from The Temple of Sekhmet)

(Photos used without permission, but with grateful thanks)

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Cat Treadwell is a Druid Priest living in Derbyshire, England with her partner and animal family. She is a professional ritual celebrant and multifaith worker, travelling throughout the East Midlands and beyond. Her first book, 'A Druid's Tale', is out now. Cat is a Trustee of The Druid Network, as well as Regional Coordinator for the East Midlands Pagan Federation and member of OBOD. She is a regular speaker on BBC Radio, and has appeared on BBC News representing The Druid Network and East Midlands Ambulance Service. Cat welcomes questions and comments - please feel free to get in touch!


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