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Red Deer Stag drum and rattle beater
After a dry day and a fine evening forecast, we stuck with plan A to hold our drum meditation at our beautiful Hearth Grove yesterday; thinking our wet weather indoor plan B wasn’t needed. Yet the rain gods still smiled on us. But we’re a hardy bunch and gathered beneath the glorious tree canopy to enjoy an evening of drum meditation and chat.
It was lovely to welcome ‘Lynx Lady’ to our Grove for the first time, who had travelled from deepest Derby to the Charnwood Forest.
We were relatively few in number, but that made the drum circle all the more intimate as I and my Red Deer Stag drum led a guided drum meditation to meet the Guardian of the Wildwood accompanied by our animal companions and other wild creatures of the forest, to spend time immersed in the energy of the ancient forest and receive a token from the Wildwood to mark our journey.
For some, it was the first time they’d meditated/journeyed to the beat of a drum/rattle and they felt it carried them deeper and helped to maintain their focus in the journey. Cymro Ap Arthan also commented how the drum beat and rattle (I used a rattle drum beater) sounded as if they came from different directions in the Grove. It was an immersive, surround sound experience.
With an opportunity to share what had transpired in the journeys if folk wished, we talked about how the Guardian of the Wildwood appeared differently to us, how we felt in the Forest and the animals which had chosen to accompany us. For some, the animal companions were already familiar, but others had new to them animal travelling companions, with Fox, Bear and Lynx making themselves known for the first time. That is how ‘Lynx Lady’ has come by her Grove name.
We’d had tentative plans to share a wider drum/instrument circle after the meditation, but everyone felt so chilled after the meditation that we decided just to relax, eat, drink and chat under the trees, soaking up the Grove atmosphere as darkness descended. We had our usual, wide ranging discussions from the esoteric to the more mundane, including the different nature of our various drums, the calm, Zen like quality of many Druids, how OBOD compares to other Druid orders and much more.
It was a wonderful evening of great company in our magical Grove, accompanied by the gentle sound of rain through the tree canopy – bliss. :)
Originally posted on A Druid in the aeon of the child:
In Druidry we place a lot of emphasis on the creative arts and being creative; especially the “traditional arts” of poetry and music. Throughout the centuries the skills of the ‘Bard’ as poet, storyteller and musician have been the mainstay of communal gatherings and entertainment. In many ways they still are, although their scope and media, like their audiences, has altered drastically. We also have a high appreciation the ‘visual arts’ of painting, drawing, and sculpture. All of these art forms are socially important. They bring us together as a society, record our histories and reflect our hopes and our dreams. They are part of the fabric of who we, as a people, are. It is of no wonder then that they, and their artists, are held in such high social esteem. However, these ‘traditional arts’ are not the only ways to be creative or to think about creativity.
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It’s been a month of rescheduling, but we’re a tenacious bunch and we did our Solstice Ceremony on Tuesday the 23rd of June instead of the 21st.
And the weather that eveing was gorgeous! We could even see the setting sun through the trees just as the ceremony was coming to its close.
Strider was our MC for the evening and had even set the fire bowl so we could honour the sun with a fire. As he was reading out the beautiful words about the height of Summer, the light and dark nights; and of Pan. I sought to revive the fire that had begun to dwindle. And revive it I did… Although I had set fire to a lock of my own hair in the process! No injuries sustained, I promised myself that next time, I’ll tie it back.
It was the first ceremony to incorporate a CD player, as Strider played us ‘Sunset Hypnos’ by Leafblade to help us contemplate the Solstice.
After that, we were invited to approach the fire and share something, if anything, that inspired us to speak. Dumbledore came forward and spoke of how we as a Grove are playful and joyous in what we do, ‘mystic fools’ as the Sufi would say. Although his version was much more eloquent. We then sauntered back to the car park where we shared food and conversation about The Illuminati and Freemasonry… And how modern depictions of film and internet are completely wrong.
June Meeting (took place on Tuesday 16th 2015)
It was a pleasure to see our Tatty Ayn once again! She reflected the marina around her in being calm and serene. It was really good to sit outside and be surrounded by such a peaceful spot. There was even a lovely sunset, too!
It was Vyvyan’s first time there and her first encounter with the Question Cards…. All three of which related to Druidry.
Q1: Is Druidry: a journey; a way station; a destination? -Dumbledore.
A: The answers laid more towards a journey. Druidry isn’t something that you aim to master, it’s something you seek to understand. And in this interpretation, the journey and learning never really ends. I can see how someone would see it as a destination of sorts “I want to be a Druid, so I shall complete all three grades until I am there…” But that’s not the point. For only one of us would I even say it’s a possible way station, but even then I’m using the term ‘Way Station’ very loosely.
Q2: Druidry- is it for life or just ceremonies and camps?
Is Druidry what you do or what you are? Where does the line blur?- Luch Dorcha and Cthulhudruid.
A: There are those who, undeniably, for them do see Druidry as something for camps and ceremonies. The performance aspect of the ceremonies and the social networking of the camps is where their Druidry is. For some, it’s when the Gwers is opened, for others it is merely a name given to something done and is a part of life anyway. Can I honestly say, hand on heart I’m a Druid every day? Maybe not, but I can say I am a Bard most days.
Ideally, Druidry should be part of who we are, but lives are complicated things and sometimes it’s what we do. The answers here depend on how we lead our lives.
Q3- Does a Pagan/Druid community exist?
How do we as Druids fit into the Pagan community?- Luch Dorcha and Cthulhudruid.
A: There are indeed Pagan and Druid communities that exist. Depending on the Pagan and Druid, it is how much they put into it that results are seen or not. An active Pagan or Druid community will become noticed by the public, the GOC for example, has been asked to speak at a conference and been approached by people who are wanting to know what Druidry is from the website and blog page alone!
In an area with no visible Pagan community? Look around! Go on the internet and search for local based groups or national sites (like OBOD or the Pagan Federation). Or go into your local Crystal shop, they usually have posters or contacts for local Pagan groups. Or even better, start your own! The last does come with its own problems however, basically, don’t make yourself a target to be laughed at or stalked (no, I’m not joking). Depending on the Druidry group in the area, you might be welcome as an outsider, or you might be turned away because you are not a member of the Order. What you have to remember is that Druidry is a Mystery Tradition as well as an Earth-based philosophy and spirituality. Some Craft based Pagans are like this as well. It’s nothing to feel disheartened about, there are somethings that shouldn’t be revealed to someone who came to their first meeting only to discover that the secret of magic isn’t what they thought. How do Druids fit into the Pagan community? It depends on the area, the location and who is involved with what. At present in the East Midlands, I’d say Druids are growing in the Pagan communities, some help organise festivals, some go into Outreach programs for prisoners, others protest against Fracking. I’d even go so far to say that Druids in the East Midlands (not just counting the GOC) keep themselves busy with outreach and environmental issues whilst Pagans celebrate who they are, make themselves visible for people to come to moots and get involved. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but what would happen if they actively joined forces?
At last! Beltane!
Another wet one this year, but that’s ok. How can we enjoy the green of Spring and Summer if the plant realm isn’t watered? We were blessed with rain and brief clear skies, we even saw the peachy, copper of the setting sun.
There were only a few of us last night as we had chosen to reschedule due to the Grove’s availability, but we carried on and our fellow Grove-mates were in our thoughts.
After a chat about WW2 and the SS uniforms being designed by Hugo Boss (it was news to me and Cymro, at least!) We decided to get cracking on. Especially as the rain appeared…
Cymro was the host and had even written a script (something we rarely do) so I was very surprised he called for us to ‘abandon script’ as it were and just wing it instead. He seemed to just want to let the ceremony flow naturally instead.
On the car journey there, me and Dumbledore were joking about ritual stereotypes, in this case ‘…Right, who’s going to be the one wanting to be in charge and end up forgetting everything?…‘ Ironically, I fulfilled that role! Not the wanting to be in charge bit, but fluffing up the order of peace and then totally mixing up when to bless the circle with fire. And I had to dash and bring my bag carrying the incense before the circle was cast! Incidentally, I called upon Fox to represent North and chaos ensued… I thanked him for his bare-faced cheek.
Cymro blessed the circle with seeds and flowers, I like it when he does that, it adds a third blessing, I feel.
Cymro led the meat of the ceremony by having us all remain in the tight circle we formed for some ass-kicking Awens. Going with the flow, he then asked us to share what Beltane meant to us. For him, it was the renewal of life and the sunlight. For him this was truly the New Year as things awaken and grow, the celebration of the turning of Arianrhod’s wheel. For Dumbledore, it was about the flow, the newness of life and the neccessity of rain. For me it was union, May has always been a time of romantic pursuit, so I saw fit to share the news that me and River had started our new relationship (see, River, I did it, we’re officially out now!). For Danceswithweasels, it was less about renewal and more about simply being able to enjoy the light nights again, especially after so much dark. For Strider, it was the turning of the wheel and recognising the seasons. He also pointed out that we were not alone… Pan was watching us.
Because our fire wood had gotten wet, we decided to forgo the Beltane fire and just use our lanterns and candles instead. Strider offered to lead us in a fire spiral, where we all join hands and make a looping dance around the fire until we drop everybody else off back into their places.
So that was our Beltane, it was a bit damp and we (I) muddled things up but we persisted and had a jolly good time indeed.
Back in April 2013, I wrote a Grove blog about Elen of the Ways. https://corieltauvigrove.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/elen-of-the-ways/
Since then, I’d been asked to speak more about my path working with Elen at our recent April 2015 Grove meeting. My talk expanded on the introduction I gave in my previous blog. Since my 2013 blog, there have been two books published about Elen of The Ways (links in blog comments) for those who may wish to explore Elen’s trackways further.
For me though, Elen is not found in the pages of a book, but is encountered as a Deer sometimes antlered goddess archetype of the land, as guardian of the trackways and dreamways. So illustrated with some items from my Elen altar, to show how I bring my work with Elen in to my spiritual practice, I shared some background about Elen and how I work with her.
Some of my Elen altar items Reindeer and red deer drums and malas
My talk led to an interesting debate about how animals who make themselves known to us in childhood may become our later lifelong animal guides and how these may link to respective deities. Although I was speaking specifically about Elen, a female antlered goddess/archetype, I’m drawn to all Deer and work also with Cernunnos and this led to a wider debate on the many links and overlap between antlered and horned deities in general; how deer of either sex may be figuratively depicted with antlers as a clear identifying deer characteristic; through aspects of shamanic shape shifting, to discussing aspects of the Dao. All told a typically wide ranging, esoteric Grove discussion.
Walking my path with Elen
I’ve been aware of a connection to Deer since childhood and more deeply since my teens when I became aware of Hind walking with me. I often sensed a deeper connection with Deer and sometimes a presence with them, a woman of the forest with deep red hair, clothed in leaves and the matter of the forest. Occasionally this lady had antlers sprouting from her head. Her name was never given to me. But then in the early 90s I found a postcard of an antlered goddess in Avebury Henge shop, shown in photo above. The card said her name was ‘Elen’. I also bought a card of a lady with a stag entitled ‘Encounter at Wistman’s Wood’. Both of these images spoke to me of the lady who appeared in my meditations or out on the land with Deer in nature. And now I had a name – Elen. I framed these cards and they’ve been on my wall now for over 20 years, in what is now my ever expanding Elen altar. In those days though, it was very difficult to find out more about Elen, but I knew then that I wasn’t the only one who saw this, sometimes antlered, Lady – guardian of Deer.
Years later via the internet, I found links to articles by Caroline Wise who’d been researching Elen of the Ways for many years and pictures by Chesca Potter who also envisioned Elen as an antlered goddess. Since then there has been a growing interest and connection with Elen of the Ways, with many now finding themselves called by Elen. As I said in my previous blog, my personal feeling is that the resurgence in perception of Elen as a deer/reindeer goddess is probably tapping in to a more ancient memory in the landscape and trackways of Britain that Elen evokes and guards, mirrored by the growing wild Deer population in Britain. I’m very fortunate to have gained some very ‘deer’ (sic) friends following Elen’s trackways with whom I spend time on the land, in meditation and on retreat.
Both Deer and Elen herself have guided me on paths and trackways. In meditations these tracks often appear as silvery threads and I may be led by Elen, my Hind and/or other deer through forests, moorlands, mountains, river valleys and out in to arctic lands where the deer are reindeer. I may be taken up high, as if viewing the earth from the top of a high mountain or even higher, with vistas as far as the horizon, with silvery threads radiating out across the landscape from various points. Following the ancient herd migratory tracks, to the power of the heart-hoof-drum-beat.
I’m drawn by the tracks of deer and reindeer, particularly to the arctic, west of Scotland etc landscapes where the energy of Elen and her herds of deer – reindeer recent and past, still call so strongly. I’ve been blessed to spend some time with the reindeer and Sámi reindeer herders on several visits to Sweden and Finland over the years and feel very lucky to be visiting the Cairngorms and Inchnadamph bone caves soon following the tracks of deer/reindeer past and present with some of our lovely Elen clan.
Elen may appear differently to each of us, but for me she’s strongly associated with liminal times, dreamtime, dusk, dawn. And different aspects of Elen resonate at different times of day and in and between seasons as maiden, mother and crone. I encounter Elen most strongly in the forest, in mountain and moorland landscapes and in her crone aspect in winter ice and snow in the arctic taiga and tundra. I find her particularly amongst the trees, especially oak, birch and pine. Her strongest link is to Deer/Reindeer, but along with some others in the Elen clan, I also find Elen strongly associated with Wolf, the Deer/Reindeer’s ancient predator. This predator-prey relationship is an ancient, primal dynamic and working with these different aspects can be transformational. Certainly walking Elen’s trackways has led me to a more shamanic spiritual practice, working closely with my Deer/reindeer and Wolf guides.
So who is Elen?
This is a summary of what I expanded on in my talk. If you don’t know about Elen, you might want to read my 2013 blog first.
In the Mabinogion in the Tale of Macsen Wledig (Elen of the Hosts (Elen Luyddog) is depicted as a Goddess of Sovereignty and solar deity. She appears to Macsen Wledig as a visionary dream and he follows his dream from Rome to Wales to find and marry her and in so doing marries the land. Elen is said to have inspired the building of the ancient roads and trackways across Britain, Sarn Elen in Wales being one of the most famous reputedly named after her.
“Thereafter Elen thought to make high roads from one stronghold to another across the Island of Britain. And the roads were made. And for that reason they are called the Roads of Elen of the Hosts, because she was sprung from the Island of Britain and the men of the Island of Britain would not have made these great hostings for any save her.”
Then there’s the aspect of Elen mythically associated with deer/reindeer and the archetype of the antlered goddess. Female reindeer (N American caribou) which once also roamed Britain and large parts of continental Europe also bear antlers and keep them for longer during the year than males, to enable them to feed beneath the winter snow and protect their calves. And it’s the migratory paths of the reindeer, leading on eventually to the native red and other deer that provide the link to Elen’s trackways. There’s on-going debate about whether Elen’s link to deer and in particular her depiction as an antlered goddess is an ancient or a relatively modern association. Although there’s no direct evidence of the historic worship of an antlered goddess specifically named Elen, there are many threads which support an ancient female deity linked to rein/deer and more specifically the link of Elen to deer.
My previous blog highlighted the etymological links of various names for Deer/Reindeer with the El prefix from the Gaelic/Celtic, Baltic, Slavic countries. The El prefix is said to derive from two roots: proto indo-European meaning red-brown as in colour of deer and links to names e.g. Elen, Elena, Ilona with an Hungaro-turkic root where El means mother of life, linking to deer as mother of life and often depicted as one of the primary forms of birth-giving goddesses, creatrix of life and protector of reindeer.
I spoke about the traditionally Shamanic/animistic cultures of the indigenous arctic people, who still live and work with reindeer, where there are numerous different traditions revering deities linked with the reindeer herds and links between the souls of reindeer and humans. Such as the Sámi Sun deity Beaivi / Beivve represented as either male or female in different aspects and Sámi tribe traditions. In the aspect as the returning sun maiden, Beaivi is typically depicted with her daughter Beaivi nieida in an enclosure (cart) of reindeer antlers /bones, bringing the sun back across the sky after winter. Beaivi is also credited with the herding and domestication of wild reindeer, with the reindeer said to have been birthed from the sun and gifted to human kind, and in some Sámi tribe legends, the Sámi people themselves are also borne from the sun, sharing the same heritage as the reindeer. The Kola Sámi termed the reindeer goddess – Lady of the reindeer, who was mistress of wild animals, whilst the Evenki tribe called the reindeer goddess Bugady – mother of the universe and the Russian goddess Rozhanitsa – mother goddess of North, was often depicted as a rein/deer.
On the Mongolian steppe and beyond there are numerous Bronze Age ‘reindeer stones’, with link to solar aspects and where the reindeer are depicted sometimes as ‘flying’ or leaping in to the sky, often with the sun – solar disc between their antlers. The mummified bodies of some Pazyryk people were also found tattooed with ‘flying’ reindeer. This imagery of flying reindeer is strong amongst the arctic people and reflects the shamanic practices of ‘spirit flight’ as or with the reindeer.
Through time, as the ice sheets retreated and climate changed, the reindeer retreated north, but some authors and folklorists propose that the memory of these ancient reindeer god/desses may have continued and evolved in to the later Deer goddesses of Europe.
Classically some link Elen to the goddesses Artemis (Greek) and Diana (Roman) who are both also closely associated with deer and are huntress protectors of their respective domains. There are numerous Scottish folklore tales of deer goddesses and/or their deer priestesses, with links to aspects of the Cailleach. The Cailleach Bhéara/Beare (Irish) is thought to have been imported in to Scotland as Cailleach Bheurr, where she is more directly attributed as a Deer goddess. And from Irish mythology, Sadbh enchanted as a white deer, who became the wife of Fionn mac Cumhaill, who protected her within his fort. However, she was tricked out and returned to deer form and forever lost to Fionn, though he later came across his son Oisin (little fawn) in the woods, who had been raised by Sadbh as a hind. Also Flidais of the Tuatha Dé Danann, goddess of animals, woodlands and fertility, was said to ride in a chariot drawn by deer and “as goddess of the domestic herds” had a magical cow of plenty.
For more information about Elen, see the links in the comments box of this blog and my previous Elen blog.
Dumbledore posted an article by Rob MacFarlane on our Grove Facebook page about the resurgence of the English countryside in eerie and horror fiction and media, with particular reference to a story by M R James. You can read the article Here
The following are some thoughts that the article inspired:
“I guess the theme of the “rural idyll” was first introduced into the popular consciousness during the aftermath of the industrial revolution (and embellished by romantic movement).
The ideal of gentle pastoral simplicity and tranquility as seen through the misty eyed, rose tinted, remembrances of those crushed into the overcrowded, industrial, smog filled, urban chaos of the early to mid 1800’s cities has, passed down (somewhat diluted) into the modern urban mindset. The industrial revolution witnessed a massive population shift as people fled (economically forced out of) the rural life to the urban sprawl. And, as happens with most diaspora people, many of them became to regard what they had left behind as a sort of “paradise lost” or timeless Garden of Eden complete with green meadows, babbling brooks, gentle sunsets and simple, yet happy inhabitants. And, to a certain kind of independently wealthy person of the leisure classes who could engage with rural nature in a very superficial and comfortable way, it probably was. To the actual rural people who worked and relied on the land for their existence, the reality then, as now, is very different.
One of the comforts of the modern technological and industrial mindset is that we have fooled ourselves into thinking we’ve conquered and tamed nature, or at least we can do so if the motivation is right. Britain is a long conquered land that has been cultivated for thousands of years. Apart from places like the moors, it’s a haven of pastoral beauty. Farms, villages and small market towns litter the agricultural landscape. There are no savage predator beasts that prowl, no real danger of deadly poisonous snakes or spiders, there are no convenient land borders for invaders to swarm across. The climate is temperate and the wildlife timid or semi-domesticated. The land is dependable, the land is safe.
Except, of course, deep down inside we know that that just isn’t true.
The feelings of unease that make authors like Machen, Blackwood and James so potent doesn’t derive entirely from the supernatural elements of their fiction. Instead it comes from confronting the protagonist, and therefore the reader, with the realisation that we are not in control, we don’t or can’t fully comprehend our environment. They point out that our belief that we have “tamed” nature is pure hubris. Nature under the surface patina of calm domesticity is still very much wild, unpredictable and dangerous. The true sense of unease is the striping away of our certainty and civilised safety. It’s like the unwelcome reminder that the faithful dog sitting by your hearth is actually a wolf.
James and Lovecraft, one subtly and one less so, draw upon how insignificant we are to nature, how fleetingly temporary our short lives are on the grand scale of the enduring landscape. Blackwood and Machen, amongst others, remind us that nature follows it own rules, is full of the hidden and unknown. They show us that nature in its pure form is beyond our comprehension and certainly beyond our self imposed comfort zone.
We seek safety in community and society, our instinct is to band together against the darkness, so what is more disturbing than to become isolated and alone? To be cut off from civilisation? To be thrust into a hostile unknown and uncaring landscape? A landscape we thought we knew? A landscape we thought populated but is in fact emptier of humans inhabitants than we’d believed, a landscape with darkened corners and hidden wild places?
In horror nature at best is indifferent to us, our short lives barely registering across its untold centuries. At worst nature is vengeful and malignant, toying with us and extracting revenge for the damages we have done her or purge the guilt of our rejection of her.
As we realise that the dog in our house is actually a wolf, and that our land of pastoral beauty is really wild and chaotic, perhaps our biggest cause for unease comes from the realisation that our own veneer of rational civilisation is so fleetingly fragile and that just under the surface hides our own uncontrollable wild nature.”