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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
The Nature of Blessing

What does it mean to bless something? To honour your blessings? How can we feel truly blessed?

Most of us only come across the term “blessing” after someone has sneezed, but for me as a Druid it is an integral part of my religion.  Alongside “prayer” however, the word can evoke memories of perhaps anti-pagan establishment.  If we can set aside these connotations and simply see the word for what it is, we can fill our lives with a wonder and enchantment, or perhaps re-enchantment that can otherwise escape us in today’s modern, secularised world.

So what is a blessing? A blessing is when we awaken, when we fully come to the here and now and see the wonder of life. It is to be absolutely awake and aware of who we are, where we are, and how we work in the flows, rhythms and cycles of life. It is being aware of the gods and ancestors, of how each part is played.  When we have awoken to this reality, life may flow easier, we may move through our days with more grace and compassion.

Being aware of our many blessings goes hand in hand with gratitude. If we give thanks for the blessing of lengthening sunlight, we awaken ourselves to the solar cycle of spring and the light half of the year. The sun gives freely of her gift, and this gift is a true blessing. When we give freely, when we are true to our selves and working for the greater good of the world, we too are blessing the world.  The rain that brings the flowers is a blessing. The person who helped us out of a dark place is a blessing.  A piece of music that sings to our soul is a blessing.

Being aware of these blessings takes us outside of ourselves, allowing room for a greater perspective that our narrow perception of the world can override. We have to shut off the internal monologue to be able to be aware of a blessing, to give and receive blessings with an open heart.

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Big News - Druid College UK is born!

Life has its up and downs, its moments of excitement and most importantly of all - change. Nothing in life is ever the same, and opportunities abound if we have the courage to take the steps down the path towards our goals.  It is with this in mind that I am so excited to say that Druid College UK is born, and to share this wonderful news with all of you.

After months of planning and preparation with Kevin Emmons (otherwise known as Snowhawke) from our sister college in Maine USA, the Druid College is pleased to announce its opening, dedicated to Earth-centered spirituality, to the integrity of our natural home, and to the crafting of sacred relationship. In short, The Druid College devotes its presence—and it is its sole intent—to prepare priests of Nature.

Foundations for this life-long journey are established by a three-year, intensive study. Unlike contemporary universities, Druid studies are furthered not only by personal reflection but primarily by ongoing personal connection and spiritual guidance of (i.e., apprenticeship to) a Druid Priest. In the UK as of 2015, those people are Joanna van der Hoeven and Robin Herne.

Being a priest of nature does not mean being an intermediary, but instead living a life in service, crafting a sacred relationship with the land, the ancestors and the gods. It requires service to the community as well as the land, wherein the priest acts as guide, witness or celebrant to a journey or journeys of crafting sacred relationship.

There are many Druid Orders and other pagan and earth-based organizations that offer solid training within their respective traditions. The Druid College is for those who wish to journey further. We wish to work with those who want to be ‘carriers’ of Nature-based spirituality – as compared to ‘followers’. We saw a need for a programme for people who desire to go deeper, for those who wish to be in service, to fill the role of priest for their community and the land they dwell in.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Ah - I see it now! Thanking you! xoxo
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Thanks Ted! On what page exactly do you see that? I can't find it, please help! xoxo
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    OK, let's see. On the Home page for the Druid College United Kingdom, go down to where it says Training Program, and click on Over
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    How exciting! Congratulations to you and Robin, and brightest blessings on this new endeavor. By the way, you'll want to make an a
Druidry, Animism and The Meaning of Life

For many people, myself included, Druidry and Animism go hand in hand. Since the Age of Enlightenment and perhaps even further back in history (perhaps with coming of Christianity) Animism has gotten the reputation of being somehow backward, a superstitious and childish view of the world wherein everything is “alive”.  This belief is completely biased in that it is totally from a human-centric point of view;  those who believe it to be silly would say that believing a stone has a soul is absolutely ridiculous.  This point of view is a projection of our human perspective,  of what is alive and what isn’t, what is ensouled and what isn’t.  It doesn’t take into consideration differences in the metaphysical.  This perspective is often derogatory of Animism, yet it fails to actually understand just what Animism actually means, and what living with an Animistic perspective can bring to human consciousness.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Excellent dissertation, Joanna. I think it was Swami Kriyananda who helped me to understand Animism with his statement, "God didn'
Winter Solstice - No Birth, No Death

With the Winter Solstice approaching, and in the cold dark months of the year, we have an excellent opportunity to reflect upon the deeper parts of our existence, those shadowy elements that seem to fade away so easily in the heat of the midday sun, those thoughts that require darkness and the teaching that it can bring.  Thoughts such as life and death, darkness and light and the cyclical nature of existence are all excellent themes to meditate on at this time of year, with a natural introspective element to this season allowing us to perhaps go further, deeper than we could or would in the warmer, more outwardly focusing half of the year.

This season, with the increasing darkness and the lack of light here in the UK brings more sharply into focus thoughts of death and dying.  It is often said in Western Paganism that the Sun God dies at Samhain and is reborn at Yule, when the days begin to lengthen and the light in our lives is increased.  However, lately my thoughts have abandoned the concept of death, as well as birth, into a more Zen-like “No Birth, No Death” frame of mind.

Having meditated on this for a couple of months now, and seeing it reflected in nature around me, as a Druid this is how I internalise the teachings.  For me, nature is the greatest teacher.  I look to no other authority other than nature. It is the core of my religion, the core of my being.  Having looked deeply into the nature of death and dying, of birth and living the concept of no death, no birth makes a lot more sense to me right now. Let me explain.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Linette
    Linette says #
    A few days ago someone posted a quote on FB, the author made a statement about "when I am no longer on this earth"...and being a p
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    On Twitter, someone replied to this post with a lovely meme that said "We are nature. We are the universe manifest as human for a
Winter's Beauty - in the cold and wet...

Winter in Britain – it’s dark and it’s wet.  Not very cold, compared to what I grew up with in Canada, but the damp just seaps into your bones.  It’s a different kind of winter, one that I still sometimes have trouble getting to grips with.

The darkness is the first thing that my body has difficulty coping with.  If it’s dark outside, my body wants to sleep. I’m very much a daytime person.  Here in the UK, at a latitude of  52.0594° N (where I grew up it was 45.9500° N) it gets dark a lot earlier than what I’m used to, and it’s not light outside much before 8.30 or 9am in the darkest part of the year.  Hibernation mode kicks in.  I struggle to get out of bed even though I’ve had a great sleep if it’s still dim out. Come summer, and it’s light at 3.30am, I can get out and greet the sunrise no problem.

The darkness has a real thick, heavy quality to it sometimes, with overcast skies and damp air all around you, sounds hushed in the shadows.  Like a blanket, it can completely cover you and, if you like your head above the covers, can seem stifling.  I’ve had to learn to work with the darkness, to enjoy it, to see its beauty.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    This is so evocative, Joanna. I lived in Stratford, Ontario for 3 years - which is in THE SNOW BELT. We dearly want to go to Glast
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Hi Ted! It's a different kind of cold, for sure - very different from growing up in Canada, with -20 to -30 C. Visit Glastonbury

discipline

ˈdɪsɪplɪn/

noun

noun: discipline

     1.     the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.

    "a lack of proper parental and school discipline"

    2.     a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education.

    "sociology is a fairly new discipline"   

 

Wow. No wonder people hate the word discipline.  It’s often equated with punishment, correcting a perceived disobedience.  We are free people, we should be able to do what we want, when we want, so long as it harms none. Life is for living, right?

Of course, I would agree with the above, that we are free, that life is for living. However, I’m also here to reclaim the word discipline into something that is positive.

We live in a world filled with instant gratification.  We have IPhones and tablets that can “connect” us with people anywhere, anytime, so that we never have to be alone (even in a crowd of people).  We have hundreds upon hundreds of television channels that tempt us into thinking that something better than the current moment we are living in is on the tube.  We have internet to answer all questions at the push of a button.  We have access to food 24/7 (most of us) – we’re usually never too far away from our larders or a shop.  We love to “treat” ourselves. Marketing has told us that “we’re worth it”, or making us feel that we’re not good enough, and with their product we will be.  Problems solved, instantly.

Now, this isn’t a blog post about self-denial, asceticism or anything similar.  It is about truly seeing and understanding our needs versus our desires. Our modern world has twisted our desires into needs, and it is up to us to rebalance, to rejig our way of thinking in order to live a life filled with more intention.

I work three jobs, alongside my work as a Druid priest.  Time can be in pretty hard demand sometimes, but planning makes it all work. It takes effort, but that is what discipline is: effort made in order to improve a situation, to live a life of intention, to learn more about integration and compassion.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

The still centre.

Outside, in the dark, the air is finally still.  Like rich swathes of fabric, the darkness hangs around me, enfolding me, wrapping me in its exquisite embrace.  I sit, breathing in the night air, the smell of cedar and dew wet grass filling me with pure awen.  The last of the crickets are singing in the remnant of summer’s growth, owls hooting softly in the distance and underneath the beech tree near Caia’s grave I let the songs of the night wash over me in waves of indigo and black.

The quiet is shattered by the call of a stag just on the other side of the hedge. Calling to the does, he is in full rut, looking for the ladies in the shelter of the night.  He is maybe four feet away, and his bark and rumbles excite me with the power that he is emanating in following his soul’s truth.  I can hear the slight shuffle of leaves and grass beneath his hooves as he paces up the track and then back down towards the nature reserve and farmer’s fields.

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