Tag Archives: pagan lifestyle

GWM August 2011

It’s still very dry. The farmers around here are using sprinklers. Yes, I know the weather forecast whinges on about the “awful rain”, not proper summer weather – where do most people think food comes from? What do they think their bodies and food is mostly made of/ do they not realise that we are 70% water? Probably not … no wonder the Earth is in such a mess if we know absolutely nothing about our own makeup!

We need the rain. Climate change has made huge differences to how crops grow, how our garden crops grow, the flowers we can grow, everything. Shropshire – north of me here in Hereford – now has a commercial olive orchard! Yikes! Do you realise what this means for the previously indigenous plants? Most people have been on holiday to France and Greece and Spain nowadays, places where olives are indigenous as they are not here in Britain. What sort of climates do those places have? Hot and dry. That’s why you go there on holiday, to bake your skin into cancer. Now think of all the British plants … apples for instance such as Hereford is famous for. They need rain to be good. Climate change has changed all that. You don’t think we can change it back, do you? We’ve had that, messed it up, it will only get worse. We now have to learn how to live with what we’ve done.

Biodynamics does help. No, it does not cure global warming! However, along with good organic practice, it does help the soil and the plants to adapt to global warming. Some of our native plants – and all the insects and animals that depend on them – will disappear; go extinct because of what we’ve done. Really makes you feel good, that thought, doesn’t it? But more will survive, changed but alive, with the aid of biodynamics. Our garden here at Archenland is a proof of that.

As I said at the beginning, the farmers around here are using sprinklers to keep their crops growing. My watering regime is not as intense as theirs although I grow most of my own vegetables. Vegetables, food crops, need a lot of water; a) it’s the major part of their make-up; b) they need it because we take them out of the ground, grow most of them as annual plants, so they draw up the food and moisture from the soil but do not die and do not put it back in the soil at the end of the season because we eat them!

You know that I use the biodynamic preps. These help to reduce the need for watering. The main one that does this is Prep 500, Horn Manure. By aiding the soil fauna and flora it helps the soil adapt to hold more moisture. I help it further by composting every darn thing I can and adding this back to the soil. As I said, vegetable and crop growing takes food and water from the soil which harvesting the crops does not give back. So one of the major parts of our gardening work here is to make compost; another is to find, collect and compost organic cow, horse, chicken and pig manure. We are pretty fortunate, able to get the stuff. The farmers need it too, for the same reasons we do, so we cannot take too much; fortunately there are several farms and horse-keepers we can ask for the stuff.

Composted weeds and kitchen waste + composted animal manure are a great help to the soil, and the roots of the plants. They provide nutrients (food) and help with water retention; they also help the mycorrhiza to grow and function well. These incredible fungi help the sugar and water exchange of all plants. For instance, in soils with a basic pH plant roots on their own may be incapable of taking up phosphate ions that are demineralized. The mycelium of the mycorrhizal fungus can access these phosphorus sources and make them available to the plants they colonize. Both Prep 500 and the compost preps aid the growth and colonisation of the mycorrhiza in your garden with; they in their turn help plants cope and adapt to the unsuitable conditions we have created with global warming.

You can use the compost preps very easily by using the Mausdorfer preparation; see my previous article on composting with Cool Heaps – the little and often method most gardeners have to use. This is much easier than working with the 6 preparations individually; to do that you need a really big heap of compost that’s ready all at the same time – we gardeners rarely have that! You can use the Mausdorfer in your Bokashi and your wormery too as I say in the article.

Using Prep 500 directly onto your soil, preferably about once every couple of months between September and the end of March for the northern hemisphere – the other way around for the southern hemisphere, i.e. from March to the end of September – will enable your soil and all the soil-life to adapt and work with the new climate conditions.

Using biodynamically prepared compost will do the same.

Doing both will make a difference. Like me, you won’t need to water so much in order to keep the plants growing and producing food for you; and producing beauty; and the nectar and seeds that feed the insects and birds and so maintain the cycles of life.

We’ve been working the land here since June 2000. At first the soil was in poor condition; we worked hard, lots of compost, lots of manure, lots of spraying with Prep 500. The land improved dramatically, our farming and gardening neighbours noticed; some even asked what we were doing and began doing it themselves. It’s got better each year … as the global warming effects have increased. I’m hoping that the watering regime will get even less; it certainly has gone down over the years although this early summer was very bad indeed with no rain for months just at the time the plants need it to put on growth.

If you are just beginning with biodynamics it’s OK to start with Prep 500 right now. I know I said between March and September, and it’s only August, but if you’re beginning you just get on with it. The land will thank you so go for it so don’t get hung up in rules and regulations! You have to adapt your thinking too as well as your gardening techniques, rules and regs are guidelines not set in stone; the sun will still rise tomorrow even if you go against perceived wisdom! Your garden is your best adviser along with your own instincts. We’re not much encouraged to use our instincts nowadays, it doesn’t make money for the experts if we don’t rely on what they say, buy their books and their expensive products! You do know the definition of an expert ??? An “ex” is a has-been, a “spurt” is a drip under pressure … says it all really!

Do go for it, get spraying with the 500, get some Mausdorfer (or cow-pat-pit) and get it onto your land, into your compost heap. Don’t chuck all that good compostable material and remember that newspapers and egg-boxes and such are vital to the heap too – see this composting article for some easy good advice, and keep adding Mausdorfer or cow-pat-pit to it. Get as much of your waste stuff in heaps to go back and feed yourself, rather than ruin the Earth further by going into land-fill.

We really can help the Earth cope with the damage we’ve done 🙂

Mindful Living

As I see it, to be a Druid is to choose to live mindfully. Druidry is not something to be picked up at the weekend, or only for ritual, it’s a daily dedication informing everything we do. Anyone can study Druidry at any level, but being a Druid is a full time dedication.

In order to make Druidry a total commitment, the individual practitioner has to consciously act as a Druid in everything they do. If it sounds like a lot of effort, that’s because initially, it is. It means doing everything consciously, all the time. Down to the smallest details and most insignificant choices. It is impossible to live ethically or act honourably unless you are paying attention to everything.

For many people, not noticing or realising seems to be a valid excuse for making a bad call. If you seek honourable relationship and ethical living, carelessness and obliviousness cease to be options you have. They stop feeling like an acceptable justification. I’ve felt for some time now that doing something wrong through lack of care and attention is in many ways worse than doing it deliberately. At least the deliberate offender might have some genuine reason, even if it is a misguided one.

Rare is the circumstance in which we truly do not have time to think before we act. Most of the time, there is no justification for speaking thoughtlessly, not saying what we mean, or mouthing off in anger. Every moment of our lives we choose who we are and express it in our actions. To be a Druid means still being a Druid in the heat of an argument, and in stupid discussions on internet boards. We don’t leave our Druidry hugging trees when we engage with the rest of our lives. If Druids of old drew meaning from the flight of birds, they must have spent a lot of time paying attention to what was going on around them. We should aspire to do no less.

Every thought, word and action needs to be considered. Is this an expression of my Druidry? It’s never ok to become smug and complacent with it either, to assume that you’ve got the habit and can trust that what you do thoughtlessly will be fine. It’s a hard path to walk, but that’s part of the point. To do anything well takes effort and dedication. To be the best kind of person you possibly can be requires ongoing care and attention. And of course we all get it wrong, and fall short, but it’s the learning and striving that are critical.

Peace at your hearth

A home should be a refuge, a safe place for folks to retreat to. However, unless you live alone (which is not without issue) then sharing a home means needing to co-operate with others. Peace at your hearth contributes greatly to scope for inner peace, and for having the equilibrium to tackle the rest of the world. A home without peace is not much of a home at all. However, peace in the home has to be a shared project, if not everyone is in residence is committed to creating a harmonious space, you have no hope of making it work.

I think the most critical elements for developing peace in the home are care and respect. Where these exist, then dealing with difficulties is relatively straight forwards. Without care and respect amongst co-habitors, conflict is probably inevitable. While circumstances can mean some of us end up living in such conditions, it’s well worth avoiding or moving away from if you can.

With care and respect, differences of need and opinion can be tackled through dialogue. Avoiding blame as much as possible, and focusing on solutions and ways forward, it’s possible to resolve most things well. A peaceful household is a more effective one, harnessing collective skills and strengths, offering mutual support and taking into account the needs, abilities and shortcomings of all those involved. 

People are more likely to be peaceful and co-operative when they are happy. Making sure everyone has what they need, that resources are distributed fairly, that everyone gets a say in key matters and that decisions are explained, all contributes to happiness and overall tranquillity. A household culture in which good contributions are praised, and efforts are noticed and encouraged, is more conducive to peace. Care and respect are attitudes which have to be expressed in an ongoing way through word and deed.

It is not necessary for people to love each other for this kind of arrangement to work. Any kind of space sharing, or resource sharing can work well if all parties approach things in a spirit of care and respect. Where people do love each other, the sharing of a peaceful, nurturing environment can be even more beneficial.

What is Peace?

The simplest definition of peace, would be the absence of war. We can think about it in terms of external realities, or inner emotional states (and I’ll explore that in more detail in the coming days).  Does peace mean absolute calm and tranquillity? Is there any difference between peace and stasis? I’m going to argue that for peace to be a useful concept, we need to define it, not as an absence of conflict, or as some kind of inactive, insipid, uninspiring state either. Peace, as an external reality or a state of mind, should be something we can realistically strive for, and then work with.

I don’t think it’s possible for humans to live without conflict. People have different ideas and needs and they won’t always fit neatly together. Contemplating the conflicting needs of fish and otters, birds of prey and endangered songbirds, we can see that nature is not inherently unchallenging either. For peace to be a realistic thing not an abstract ideal, it cannot be defined as the impossible ideal of freedom from conflict.

If we wanted some kind of Time-Machine-esk future where humans sit round being lazy and stupid (I wonder sometimes if the majority do) then we might define peace that way. Freedom from hard choices, from need, pain, distress, and so forth. Nothing to upset us. What kind of life would that be? There would be no scope to grow or prove your strength. There would be little inspiration or motivation to create. I feel very strongly that to flourish and live fulfilled lives, we need challenges. Druidry is all about creativity and living honourably – you can’t do that without choices and challenges. Peace cannot therefore, from a Druid perspective, be about having everything easy and painless.

I have no way of talking about this on a social scale now, and must turn to the personal. From my experience, a sense of peace in a home does not come from everything being smooth and outwardly calm, nor from an absence of conflict. What it depends upon is those involved working honourably and co-operatively to try and find the best solutions for everyone, as an ongoing project. It’s the approach in which people speak gently, and listen to each other with respect. Conflicts arising in such an environment remain challenging, but the distress is kept minimal, and the seeking after resolution is a priority. Consequently it’s also very good as a pragmatic approach to life. This kind of peace gets things done well. 

So I offer this though. Peace is not a thing to achieve as a one off ‘and now we’ve done it.’ Peace is a way of life, an intention that informs action – just as honour and love do. They go together well. Being honourable is not a one off event or achievement, it’s how we live, moment to moment. I think that peace is the same. It’s a life choice – not a desire to live without conflict or difficulty, or the passive acceptance of whatever comes, but an approach. Peace means seeking solutions that work as best as possible for everyone, not the loudest voice forcing their will on others. Living peacefully means avoiding aggression as far as is possible, and not pushing others into it. There is no scope for peace without respect and honour, but where those are present, and are values shared by all, then peace can be created and sustained.

There will always be challenge and conflict. A dedication to peace, is a dedication to finding ways forwards, and through, or around issues. It is a dedication to good solutions and equality, to justice, fairness and honour. It’s a process that is internal and external, and ongoing.

Pagan Police

There are no pagan police. (There are police who are pagan, that’s a whole different issue). There’s no overarching body to whom you can complain, or who can bestow justice. There’s no one whose job it is to go round shutting up pagans who embarrass other pagans, or say things most of us don’t agree with or post total drivel in forums.

In many ways this is a good thing. Paganism is about taking responsibility for yourself and your actions – the idea of anyone policing that, in all its diversity, is anathema. Paganism is not about dishing doctrine or enforcing rules, nor is it about power and hierarchy. But every now and then you may encounter someone who calls themselves a pagan, but, in your perceptions, betrays paganism with every word and action. And yes, those folk make most of us wish we had some kind of official body to run to.

What this means is that each and every one of us has to police the community as we find it and take responsible action. If I said that was a minefield, I’d be guilty of terrible understatement. However, here are some broad guidelines for how to tackle rogue and nuisance pagans.

1) If anyone is using their claimed pagan status (as priest/ess, teacher etc) to abuse others, coerce, defraud or otherwise mistreat, this is a matter for the regular police and you need to take it that way.

 2) If you have problems with someone creating a bad press image the only answer is for other pagan folk to approach the media and try to get their voices heard too. It’s not an easy solution, but sometimes it works.

3) If someone is working inappropriately or dangerously within the community, the only answer is to make other resources available – and that can mean stepping up and teaching to give people an alternative to bad teachers. You can’t make people do differently, but you can give them choices.

4) Be very careful of clashes of style and personality. Not liking how someone does things is not grounds for attacking them or instigating ‘witch wars’. It is fine to disagree. It is not fine to hound or harass people because you don’t like how they do things. You have every right to offer an alternate opinion. If you have a problem with another pagan’s behaviour, it is vital you make sure that your own actions remain lawful and honourable.

5) We are all different and we frequently disagree. How we do it speaks volumes about who we are. Sometimes it’s better to walk away, unless there is genuine risk of harm being caused. Usually the best solution is to create a viable alternative. Taking responsibility means taking action that may be demanding and difficult, but if we think we can do better than the teachers and priests who have stepped up already, then the only honourable action is to step up.

Light in the darkness

Having blogged about happiness yesterday I went on to have one of the most heart-breakingly awful days I’ve had in a long time. Others commenting on facebook about yesterday’s post, asked about hard times and situations beyond our control. Well, I have one, and I’ve done a lot of crying in the last 24 hours.

Even in the darkness, there are lights.

The kindness and support of friends and family as they rally round, offering words, advice, insight and hope.

My beautiful, courageous son who believes I should do what I can, who offers support and a willingness to make sacrifices in order to help find a way through.

Sitting with James on the style into a field full of deer, watching them. Finding two shire horses who were going out with a cart. I love shires, they spark my imagination.

It’s being a bitch of a day, but I have honour, love and determination. I know I will do whatever it takes, and there’s a comfort of sorts to be had in that. I count my blessings. I am loved. Apparently, I am worth fighting for.

Pain makes it easy to pull back from the world, to become isolated in an attempt at self defence, or wanting to hide the pain as a matter of pride. I’m crying openly, people are coping with it. Being able to share makes a lot of odds. There is also the issue of being open to small details, not being so shut off from the world that I can’t take delight in the antics of a cat, or treasure the many ways in which I am blessed. Swamped with distress, it can be so easy to lose track of where the good things still are. Even in the worst situations, the sun still rises, birds still sing, stars still shine. There are still tunes to play and stories to share. There are moments of wonder and beauty to appreciate.

I’m not advocating ‘happy’ as the only way to be. There are times of grief and injuries that can only be embraced, never let go of. The loss of loved ones, of land, innocence or hope, and more. Being happy is a choice, and sometimes, it is better, more honourable to embrace the distress instead. But the stars still shine, and there are still cute bunnies in the hedgerows, and it is important not to forget how to smile.