The Values of a Reformed Druid

My name is Avery and I’m a member of the Reformed Druids of North America, the oldest druid group native to the United States. I write mostly non-fiction, but I felt compelled by another pagan blogger’s challenge to make June Pagan Values Blogging Month.

I like to keep my mind open to the supernatural, but not so open that my brains fall out– which means I take a lot of religion with skepticism. Yet insofar as the Reformed Druids are a pagan group, I feel like our special brand of paganism is something I should be proud of. In our membership ceremony we honor all aspects of nature both seen and unseen. We give non-human beings the well-deserved dignity of equal treatment with humankind, and we acknowledge, for once in the twists and turns of our lives, our own limitations: “Thou art everywhere, but we worship thee here; Thou art without form, but we worship thee in these forms; Thou hast no need of prayers and sacrifices, yet we offer thee these prayers and sacrifices.” These words seem self-conscious and meek, but when they are said in a ceremony they feel very right to me. Would that in our everyday lives we could recognize our ignorance of the effect our actions have on the living planet that produced our bodies.

Reformed Druidry is about doing more than just “appreciating nature” or “doing something for our environment”. It is recognizing that we are part of nature, and we are part of our environment, despite all our attempts to separate ourselves. This is a form of wisdom known to cultures around the world, when they address other living creatures as people, or welcome animals or plants into their daily lives as equals. It doesn’t involve believing in anything you can’t see– rather, a new druid is asked only to broaden her definition of what’s important to her.

I’ve read a few books that strengthen the philosophical backing for these new pagan values: Graham Harvey’s Animism: Respecting the Living World and David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous. Both these writers give examples of how living in a shamanic or animistic community changes one’s perception of reality. Abram, a philosophy professor, talks about how the powerful relationships he had with birds during his time studying in Nepal. Harvey writes about his time living with neopagan groups in Britain, and how he discovered affinities for animals he never realized he had. Both these writers question the language we normally use to describe nature, and the baggage it carries with it. You can think of paganism as dangerous language–with every special term and phrase, it challenges the religious status quo and disturbs those who want a “normal” religion to live a “normal” life with. Reformed Druidry especially, explicitly drawing its inspiration from the non-human planet, upsets our assumption that the Earth is ours for the taking.

When I talk to my friends about my religion, I point out that there’s no need for a leap of faith to believe in what I say, and scientific evidence will neither back me up nor disprove me. Reformed Druidry is a choice: a choice about how to interpret what you already know, and what you will choose to act on.

Growing up in a Unique Family

I wracked my brain wondering what I could possibly write about today. Being this is my first blog for the Pagan and the Pen I decided I might share with you some of my family’s history. This history is what led me to not only my interest in psychology and the paranormal but eventually to paganism.

For many years, I never spoke of certain aspects of my childhood simply because of the stigma of two subjects—mental illness and psychic abilities. Some people would say both are one and the same because psychic abilities do not exist. I beg to differ. My father suffered mental illness most of his life and my mother inherited a gift from my grandmother that she considered a curse. As my youngest brother put it when our mother passed into the spiritual realm, ‘Say what you may about them, but the old man and her had something special. They definitely loved each other’. Because they both needed someone who would understand and love them, flaws and all, I believe the God/Goddess drew them together.

Goddess knows, my father was one of the most gentle and shy men I’ve ever met. That was when he was on his meds and they were working. He began having problems when he hit puberty at the age of twelve in 1943. He was in and out of mental hospitals throughout his teen years until he decided to leave home at eighteen. He never spoke much of his family background or his experiences as a young man traveling throughout the United States.

Born in West Virginia during the Great Depression he grew up in a troubled family. Whether that added to his problems, I can’t say. His father died of an accidental gunshot before he was born and his two older sisters insisted until they died their mother had killed him because she wanted to marry her lover. No one though, will ever know the truth being as all parties are now deceased. Having known his mother though until she passed when I was fourteen, I believe she might have done just that. She was a bitter, hateful, woman who took any opportunity to sharpen her claws on my father, my mother (who she despised for reasons unknown by me), or her crippled husband who was confined to a wheelchair.  There was a great deal of anger, physical, and mental abuse dealt out over the years by her.

My mother was ten years my father’s junior. She was born and raised in the same town in the Ozark foothills that my siblings and I were. Small towns can be unforgiving. Her mother gave birth to two children prior to marrying my grandfather. Both were children of rape (the husband of the woman she lived with raped her from the time she was thirteen) who died at the ages of five and six from what might have been influenza. After her marriage to my grandfather, she gave birth to nine more children all at home; her last was still born. With such a large family, there was little to go around and my grandfather spent a year in State prison when he was caught stealing chickens to feed his family. The stigma of both her mother and father’s pasts left my own mother angry and with little self-esteem.

Her father passed from a heart attack when she was ten and her mother suffered a stroke five years later. My mother dropped out of school to take care of her mother and her younger brother. At seventeen, she had an affair with a married man. In this day and age, he would go to prison for statutory rape. Instead, my grandmother threatened to tell his wife about his extracurricular activities. That ended the affair and three years later, she met my father.  They began dating when she was twenty-three and they married two years later.

My parents tried their best with what little they had. In those years, when my brothers and I were younger, my mother tried to hide the fact that she had premonitions. I never understood why adults think they can hide things from kids. Children have eyes and ears. One of my first memories of my mother having a premonition was when I was perhaps five. She woke screaming and sobbing and told my father she’d seen a black wreath in the floor setting in a pool of blood. She then announced that her brother was dead and my father tried to tell her she’d had a nightmare. A few hours later her sister showed up (we didn’t have a phone) and told her that their brother had committed suicide.

That was just one of many incidents. As I grew older, I began to ask questions. My mother sent mixed signals about her gift. I believe it was from years of suffering the slings and arrows of not only a close-minded community but also a family that had no desire for any further stigma. At times, she took it with a grain of salt and at other times would beg God to stop punishing her for some imagined wrong. The older she became the harder it was for her to deal with not only her sensitivity, but also my father’s illness. She avoided any conversation of it as if to deny it would mean it didn’t exist. It bothered me that she felt this way and being a child I was fascinated by what she could see.

My fascination was short-lived though when at fourteen I had my first major experience.

The house we lived in had a resident spirit that everyone knew about in the family. He manifested only as the sound of footsteps that paced back and forth between the kitchen and living room, but that’s a story for another time. There was only once that he appeared and that was to my mother’s sister. Having always heard the footsteps I was used to them and thought nothing of it. Of course, this particular fall afternoon was something entirely different.

I had my favorite chair, a huge high-backed thing that sat in front of the television.  My younger brother loved to sneak up on me when I was reading in this chair and try to scare me. Every time he succeeded in doing so which would lead to a fight. This time though I thought I had him. As I sat in the chair reading, I heard his approaching footsteps that halted behind the chair. I waited for a moment grin firmly in place and then heard my name whispered softly. Leaping up from the chair to confront my brother I was horrified to discover no one standing there. That was probably the fastest I’ve ever run in my life and despite the evidence of my own eyes I refused to believe that it wasn’t my brother. My mother confirmed he’d been with her the entire time though. Let’s just say I refused to stay alone in the house for at least six months.

Over the course of the next year, I had a handful of experiences including a premonition of the night my father on a down spin tried to kill my mother. If it hadn’t been for that premonition I’m not sure I would be setting here typing right now. Suddenly the idea of being psychic wasn’t so fun anymore. I immediately shut myself off and it wasn’t until years later that I realized that closing off was the worst thing I could have done. Not only had I closed myself off from the spiritual world, but from the physical world as well.

After years of struggling, I’m now in a comfort zone. My sensitivity is not as strong as my mother’s was nor is it the same. I feel energies, mainly emotional energy. This ability has served me well in both my public as well as private life. I thank the Goddess everyday that I learned to embrace my gift. I grant you sometimes it has scared the crap out of my friends, but that is their problem.

My best friend of over twenty years (who also happens to be my cousin) and I have a connection that’s been made stronger by my ability to leave the past behind and open up about this. Her mother and mine were sisters, from the same family, although, we were raised thousands of miles apart. Once I opened up, she confessed that she’d experienced things as well. We both scared the crap out of her ex-husband and pissed him off as well when their son began to experience things at the age of four. Rather than shut the little guy down, we encouraged him to talk to us. Now he’s nearly a teenager and he still experiences things on occasion, but has learned not to tell everyone he meets he sees things. Now if only we could convince him to clean his room. *chuckles*

Over the years, I have helped others by accepting this gift and it is a gift. I no longer fear what I can’t explain nor do I fear death. There is no doubt in my mind that we carry on long after our body gives out. I know somewhere out there my mother and father are watching over me and I have no doubt they are proud of the woman I’ve become.

Blessed Be,

Jesse

The First Third Wednesday

bloodiedquill

Well, merry met, everyone, and before I forget – Happy Litha!

Since this is my first post, I thought I might just take the moment to introduce myself and tell you a bit about the projects I work on. Please excuse the rambling why my mind wanders… I’m quite a topic hopper when left to my own devices.

My name is Jodi Lee; that is my professional name as well as my actual birth name. I do have a last name, but I rarely use it, only when I absolutely have to. Like on government documents and signing permission slips for my daughters’ school activities. I’m a single mom, divorced for a couple of years, separated longer than that. My daughters and I are very close, and I always say we’ve had to be. Although their dad had them every weekend for the first year, gradually his interest in being a father waned, and for the past four years it’s been just the three of us.

We do pretty well for ourselves. I am a work at home mom, due to circumstances somewhat beyond my control, but I love the work I do, and hey, who doesn’t want to go to work in their PJs? 😉 I am a freelance editor and graphic designer. My more recent positions include editor in chief of LBF Books and senior editor of Lachesis Publishing, although I recently turned in my resignation for both those positions in favor of some very lucrative freelance work. I also run a small webzine, The New Bedlam Project.

Time flies, it really does. It was when I was working on notes for a project (I’ll get to that one in a moment) that I realized I’ve been pagan for very nearly 25 years. I’d say that’s not bad for someone my age, but it makes me feel a bit older than I actually am. 😉

My grove will celebrate it’s ninth anniversary this weekend. My daughters have been studying for going on two years now. I can look back and see where the time has gone, and yet still wonder how it went so fast. In the past nine years, under my chosen name, ierne LloerCariad, I’ve been involved with the Pagan Pride Project, WARD Canada, Gaia Gathering, and written nearly a hundred articles and twice as many book reviews. I’ve taught numerous forms of energetic healing. I became disillusioned with being a public pagan and stepped back from it all, only to find recently that I miss some of it.

So here I am, taking baby steps into writing more spiritual non-fiction, but tying it in to what I do every day. My daughters and I spent all of March working on a chapbook series, which we market as an ebook or handmade chapbook on Etsy and one of my websites. We recently launched the series by releasing Litha, just in time for the Solstice.

Over the past few years, I’ve had to reconcile my choice of genre with my beliefs. I write horror, usually what’s called ‘splatterpunk,’ meaning the very bloody, visceral fiction that doesn’t appeal to many folks. It is through that fiction that I’ve worked out a lot of issues, a lot of tension and anger. The Rule of Three is less likely to come into play if the victim is a fictional character. Occasionally I have twinges of guilt for manipulating the Hollywood-vision of a witch into something so very foreign to what we actually are. I tend to steer away from the gore then, and focus on mind-twisting paranormal thrillers.

I have a wonderful, unofficial mentor who I’m proud to call my friend and colleague. He has managed to work the old ways into his murder mystery series, and I shall ever aspire to do as well with what I write. Granted, my writing will never come to what his is, but… all I can do is try.

I’ll be stopping in here—with my mixed bag of tips, tricks and general musings—every third Wednesday, bringing what I can do this wonderful forum of fellow pagan writers.

Here’s a collection of my links, in case you are so inclined as to follow the breadcrumbs into the woods. I promise, I’ve kept the monsters at bay this morning, for now. 😉

New Bedlam – http://www.newbedlam.com

Sacred Triskele – http://www.sacredtriskele.net

My author blog – http://www.jodilee.ca

Our Etsy shop – http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=7269725

My portfolio – http://tinyurl.com/JodiLee

My design portfolio – http://tinyurl.com/LeeLite

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/bychwych

Myspace – http://www.myspace.com/jodileebleeds

Associated Content articles – http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/189545/jodi_lee.html

Speaking of Ancestors

The far right people put a great deal of emphasis on racial identity and ancestry. In the UK that’s in the news a lot at the moment, and it’s a sad state of affairs.
Ancestry is important – it shapes us culturally and genetically. How far can you trace your family? How much of who you are comes from your blood lines? I have Welsh, Cornish and Irish in the mix, I’ve been told I have Jewish blood from a long way back, and no doubt Roman and Saxon and Celtic along the way too. I’m British, utterly, which to me, means being a hodge-podge of all kinds of things.
Druidry identifies three kinds of ancestors – of blood, of place and of tradition. Blood ancestry is straightforward enough. The people who gave us our bodies and shapes. Ancestors of place are those who lived on the land before we did – so even if we have no direct blood ties, we can still honour those who have shared the space we now occupy. Whatever your background and country, how you relate to more indigenous peoples is complicated and a minefield, but treating them with honour and respect is vital, hearing their stories. Ancestors of tradition are those who did what we now do. That may mean the ancient druids, but for writers that will also mean the authors who have inspired you. I would include George Eliot on that list for me, for example.
Ancestry is not a simple matter of blood. it is all the rich diversity of our heritage. Ancestry does not divide us, it connects us to each other. We all climbed out of the saem primordial stew after all. We share genes with all living things.
http://curryandmotown.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/british/

My Spirituality and how it came about

Growing up, I knew I wasn’t being taught everything because, I knew things that wasn’t taught in school or church. Things like, how to know what animals said when they came up to me. Or knowing how to heal them when they needed it. I knew that my invisible friends were spirits and not imaginary. In addition, I knew what I could and could not say to adults because I knew how they were feeling.

Now I am not talking about things children learn, as they get older. I’m talking about their actual feelings. I knew because I could feel it. And, almost as if I could read their minds, I knew what they would and would not accept. Like me kissing a girl instead of a boy when I was four or, my talking with the animals and spirits. For years I didn’t say a thing about anything other than what I was taught.

Until we were taking a trip, one day and I started asking questions about where we were going. As they explained whom we were going to see, I slipped up and said “Oh you mean the ones who lives…” and proceeded to describe every portion of their abode – from the street all the way back to the salt block sitting in the back forty. You would have thought I suddenly sprouted fangs and was going to attack them.

As they said the words, I had worked hard never to hear, “Never do that again! That is of the devil!” I knew I messed up and revealed my lifelong secret. I would have to work harder than ever to cover up for that mistake. It wasn’t enough for me to apologize and promise never to do it again, they dug until they found the one thing I mentioned that was wrong – pictures. As they went off on me with “See we told you you had never been here before. You described the wrong pictures.” This, of course, triggered questions from the branch of the family we were visiting. When my grandmother finished with her discourse, their response only made me cringe more. “Oh we took those pictures down a couple of months ago.” I so wanted to hide. Instead, I did the next best thing, I slipped out the door to go play with the rest of the children.

I said all this to say, I was born doing what I do. For many years, I searched for a religion, which believed as I did. Pieces of what I believed showed up in many religions but never all of it. Finally, giving up looking for a religion, I decided to be spiritual. When I did, a way opened up for me to learn about Spiritualism. They understood my frustration and disillusionment with religion.

One woman in particular was very understanding. So much so, she decided to take me under her wings, and became my mentor. She spent several years teaching me what I did and how to control it. In addition, she tried to teach me other things that I just couldn’t grasp like Tarot. However, in the process, she discovered I used Psychometry to give messages and that they were more descriptive than when I gave messages without using it. After a year of teaching me, she decided to groom me to take over her teaching position, which took me a couple of years to get my courage up for that. Plus, I didn’t want her to stop teaching others. But the day came when she did and told me it was time for me to step up and take her place. I did, for a couple of years before I had to move on.

My spiritual beliefs came about as you can tell, from birth to trying out and learning different things. They encompass things like, “Thoughts are things so think only positive thoughts.” “Life is a circle, what you wish on others will return to you 10 fold.” “Mother Earth regenerates our energy if we don’t block her.” “No matter where you are on your path, you are okay as you are where you are suppose to be at any given time.” I tend to follow the Native American Belief mostly although I have bits and pieces of other beliefs mixed in. There is no name for my belief as far as I know. I figure it is just me being me – always going the opposite direction from the flow.

So what makes me a pagan? I don’t believe as the Christians, I talk to the dead, and I don’t call my higher power God.

Well, this is the best I can put into words how I believe. I know there is much more to it, but the words won’t come. So I will leave you with well wishes.

Have a great day everyone!

Bo Perkins

Automatic Drawing

Hi, All,

Just wanted to see if anyone has ever heard of Austin Osman Spare and his automatic drawing.  I’ve recently discovered him and was wondering on your thoughts about his ways of magick dealings.  He sounds rather complicated, but very intriguing.  I guess I’m more interested in ‘how’ he did what he did rather than ‘why’.

Words of Wisdom

Edits! Edits! Edits! Okay now as a author, I know these blasted things are apart of my job. But I have had three different editors in not even a two year time span. Each one was different. I thought I was learning from them, which I did but now with my latest one, I’m finding I’m doing so many things wrong. I feel like a nweb. I’m confused and frustrated.
I’ve had that authors need to have thick skin. I don’t know if that is true or not. I don’t know what to think. I love writing. I love learning different things but now I’m swimming in a pool of self doubt.

Maybe it’s because I thought as I grew as a writer the edits would come easier. I was wrong? Now I don’t know what to think.

Sel;f doubt is NOT something an author should dwell on. Help y’all I need some words of wisdom today. I was looking forward to blogging again. The women here were so kind to even offer to give up days of their own. Then I got the edits and my heart sank.

Will anyone out there answer my call for help?
I hope so.

Big Hugs,
Raven

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