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Awen and Despair

Sometimes being a Druid in today’s society can seem so futile, so pointless.  When people are driving their SUV’s and other gas guzzlers to the corner store, or changing the goalposts on the UK badger cull to suit the targets that they set out in an insane attempt to murder as many of the creatures as possible; when people are leaving lights on in their home or their computers on all day because they are too lazy to turn them off, when we keep using plastic bags because we’re too lazy to carry our own into a shop, when we buy cosmetics that have been tested on animals and judge homeless people on the street as ‘good for nothing’ – how on this earth can one go on? And in the name of Druidry, no less – how can we still follow the paths our hearts take us on, when everything around us seems to be crumbling under the weight of the ills of the so called “modern world”?

We may often feel like a tiny drop of water in a vast ocean of futility.  But what we do, matters, even on the most basic level.  It can be horrendously despairing when we hear news of our beloved planet being raped, and we may feel powerless to stop it.  I ask myself so often – what can I do?

Oftentimes, there isn’t an obvious answer. The rage and helplessness have nowhere to go.  It builds up inside, until we are cynical of absolutely everything.  How can we avoid this, how can we continue to walk the earth’s paths with awe and wonder when around us everything that we hold dear is being destroyed?

When this feeling hits me, and it often hits me hard, the answer is to go out. Go outside, go out in nature and find the wonder again.  News from around the world can bombard us with the negative, and we can redress the balance by finding the wonder again in the natural world.  It isn’t enough, however – we must still write to our MP’s about hare coursing, we must still sign petitions and protest when and where we can, we must still stand strong in our love for this planet and not merely let it all fall to pieces.  But the inspiration to continue can be found by taking that time out, by watching the moonrise, by listening to the owls in the growing twilight. 

Awen, that beloved Welsh word so popular in Druidry, is what it is all about.  Gathering the threads of inspiration we weave into our world a better outcome, a better solution, a more harmonious approach.  We take that inspiration like a person dying of thirst drinks in a glass of water – it feeds us, nourishes us and sustains us so that we may continue. 

It has often been said in Druidry that we do not submit to the gods, for to do so would be suicidal.  Just so, we should not submit to the negativity in the world, for again that only has one outcome.  We must reach for the awen in order to hear the song again, and in hearing the song to be able to sing it, and by singing it hear others as they  join in the chorus, eventually coming together with wonder and awe and beauty.  For me, there is no other way. 

Though I occasionally fall into despair, I reach for the awen to help me climb back out again and face the world, head on.

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  Joanna van der Hoeven is a Hedge Witch, Druid, and a best-selling author. She has been working in Pagan traditions for over 20 years. She is the Director of Druid College UK, helping to re-weave the connection to the land and teaching a modern interpretation of the ancient Celtic religion.  


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