Archive for the ‘Modern Druidry’ Category
Sometimes you must wonder why I put such store in dowsing as a divination method. Of course, I talk about other methods – scrying, tarot, and other obscure methods. Some of these methods have provenance, and most have been validated by my own work to my satisfaction at some time or another. Yet I keep coming back to dowsing as a regular, day-to-day tool which I can use “out in the field” – literally. Why?
I think one of the reasons why I do my work is to try to revive the skill of dowsing amongst those who also practise the shamanic arts which we loosely consider to fall under the umbrella term of “druidry” (or ‘druidism’ for our American-oriented friends). We often think that dowsing has only a relatively recent history. I think that this is because of the lack of imagery from any time before the engravings and woodcuts which began to appear when printing became popular. Certainly we don’t see any paintings of the activity. I don’t know why. Yet the impression that dowsing was something invented by our recent forefathers remains. Surely dowsing is a quaint notion of a forgotten skill, now ridiculed into obscurity by scientific progress?
What we do have as a means of determining that dowsing was an ancient art is the rather fabulous find of a figure who has come to be known as “The Druid of Colchester“. It is thought the be the first documented archaeological find of a druid’s grave, and it reveals some interesting grave goods – dowsing rods!
“In the grave, archaeologists uncovered a board game with the glass counters laid out, medical equipment – the earliest ever found – a tea strainer still containing some kind of herbal brew, and some mysterious metal poles.” (source: The Independent newspaper)
Other accounts record the equipment in different terms: as surgical equipment, herbs and most importantly -
We must resist the urge to classify a single find as representative of all druids and their work. However, it does seem to indicate that in at least one instance the types of activities that have come down to us through story and lore may be borne out: this druid was a healer, herbalist and diviner. It’s not an overwhelming validation of the work that modern druids do, but it does at least show us that there is some level of truth permeating the accounts of the work of druids, and it does help us to feel more validated in trying to recreate some of that activity in a modern context.
“This is where the Colchester burial site comes in. The doctor of Camulodunum was evidently a rich and respected man. If one assumes that the surgical instruments and divining rods in his tomb weren’t just for decorative purposes, healing and soothsaying must have been part of his job description. It’s the closest anyone is likely to get to a druid in archaeological terms.” (source: Spiegel)
The upshot of which is this: Druids did dowsing from as far back as we have an evidence. I will continue to dowse as long as the forces at work in that process allow. This blog will always be a reflection of that work, and the importance that I place on divination as a means of staying in touch with the subtle forces of this world and beyond it.
Whenever I mention a sacred site to visit I can see the cogs going round in Kal’s mind… “Will there be climbing involved?” Well, in this instance yes. As we made our way through the Manifold Valley path towards the conjunction of three hills I could hear a familiar tone evolving in his phrases. So this cave…. is it…high up? Yes, it’s high up. And the way is steep. And the path precipitous. But the views are amazing and the climb is worth it for the reward of experiencing the cave’s vast space and acoustic properties.
On this particular visit I had chosen to try to find the easier way up. The walk was longer, but I knew that coming down from the top of the hill from the village of Grindon was not only a muddy experience but a buttock-clenching one too, at times. I hoped to spare Kal the worst for this former vertigo sufferer. Was it appreciated? It didn’t sound like it! Did I offer him soothing platitudes to ease his worries?
The cave is monstrously impressive! The height, the altitude, the view, the difficulty to get in…. it’s such an effort which is rewarded by the timbre of the acoustics even standing at the entrance. Having been here before I remembered that somewhere deep inside there was what our ancestors used to refer to as a “goblin” inside – an earth spirit. I hoped to meet him again, but that wasn’t the reason I was here.
My main reason for visiting the cave was to test whether I could create my “Perfect Shield” – an energetic construction for protection. The Shield was purely theoretical at this point, and which I needed to have practised before I came to use it “in anger”, as it were, when I needed it. I think the shield is linked with the Shield of Faith that I obtained as a gift from Faery too. Why I would need such protection wasn’t clear yet, but something somewhere knew and had guided me to learn how to create it. I had the image of how it could be done, now I needed the space and time to make it work.
In England one cannot fail to take advantage of sunny days. They are as scarce as hen’s teeth. So it was, on a Hen’s Tooth Day, Kal and I agreed to meet up to explore some places in Staffordshire that had been recommended to us. I had already been to Thor’s Cave myself, but the stone circle called Nine Pins was new to both of us, which is always an exciting prospect.
We drove past the Abbey Inn at Abbey Green village near Leek. Something tugged at me in a familiar way. I ignored it because I was “following a map”, however ten minutes later I was back at the pub parking in their car park. When will I learn to follow my intuition? Not only was the parking easier than the narrow hill road, but actually it turned out that the pub was the best place to walk to the circle from anyway. The helpful landlord of the pub directed us to the footpath to start us on our way. We would meet him again later when we sampled his excellent local ales.
On the way up the hill behind the pub you’ll pass the site dedicated to the memory of “Tony Squires“. This is a combination of a bench with a breath-taking view and a quaint fence whose posts are carved with Tony’s memorial details. A wonderful tribute.
His shade is hanging around on the bench. Maybe it’s admiring the view? Or maybe it’s pinned there by the intention of his family? I imagine that shades see our world like the landscape in the film Constantine:
On this occasion we left the shade to remain where he was. He wasn’t creating any energetic imbalance. On to the circle…
I set off on what I expected to be a simple walk in the evening sun, taking advantage of the last warmth of a wonderful weekend for weather. By the gods that warmth was welcome after the latest and coldest Spring in thirty years! For some reason I was compelled to walk along the sandstone ridges that a nearby to the village where I live. Pictures and memories of a special place kept arising in my mind like bubbles in a champagne glass. One particular ridge walk came to mind so I got out of the car and checked which direction I should head in using dowsing rods. The way I had pictured in my mind was the direction indicated to follow. What about the destination? Yes, the one I was thinking of was the most appropriate for any meditative work. Great – then I scarcely needed the rods so I put them away.
As I began my walk I was still believing that firstly this has been my rational idea, and that it was simply a walk. I’d even brought a book to read and a can of gin and tonic. My everyday self was walking around with the idea that I was just going for some kind of a light summer picnic or something. My druid self had other ideas that were bubbling under the surface, and the more I climbed the sandstone path the more these druidic senses began to make themselves heard.
As if by the same magick that was bubbling through this evening I am currently listening to ”Ouses ;Ouses ’Ouses‘ narrated by John Copper (Imagined Village).
In this song the narrator is talking about his granddad having his ashes sprinkled on his spot with his favourite view up on the chalk hills of The Downs. By an odd coincidence that leads me into this story.
I walked up onto the sandstone hill through freshly unfurling stalks of bracken, shaded from the remaining rays of the day by the bright-leaved canopies of giant beeches, ancient oaks and sapling birches. The path was easy for me to read. I’d been that was many times over the years, but I only ever seem to visit when the summer comes. I don’t know why. This time felt different, and I was about to find out why.
In this final part of the Beltane story for this year I record the nature of my quest for this part of the Wheel of the Year – Beltane to Summer Solstice.
We were back into the east of Derbyshire now and visiting sacred sites along the way as we came to them. Being back in Derbyshire visiting places we knew felt like coming home, and it also felt like the right time of year to be working. Arbor Low was briefly in sunshine so I took some pictures before the freezing cold gale-force winds forced another early retirement from the site. Is that place EVER warm?
As we moved towards Congleton I veered off the road and up a hill to park near to a field. In that field could be discerned Clulow Cross – a vertical gritstone pillar on top of an ancient mound. Personally, I have always had the impression that this was a meeting place since ancient times, and once or twice I have felt the presence of a ghostly host on the lower slopes, gathering to listen to the pronouncements of an exalted few on the top. Others who have visited the site have said similar things, but of course there’s unlikely ever to be any form of evidence for such events.
After the bitter chill of Arbor Low this site was… exactly the same! Aaargh! If anything the wind had become stronger. Kal and I passed each other on the hill and exchanged knowing glances. We wouldn’t be here long today. I found shelter at the base of the cross and thought about which spirit to connect to in order to ask what my next quest would be. Should I try the Spirit of the Place, the various nature spirits that I hoped might be around, or one of the spirit energy forms that I have worked with previously?
The Lady of the Lake came to mind. She fitted the bill because she had worked with me in providing the Sword and Shield of Galahad. As my quests this year seemed to be entirely related to this Arthurian stream of development then I would continue in that vein unless something indicated strongly otherwise. Hunched in a quiet area behind the pillar I invoked images of the Sword and Shield, forming connections with the site, the earth and celestial objects above me. I then asked what the next stage was, directing my request to an image of the Lady that I had seen when I last worked with her at Lyn Tegid in North Wales.
Well, what a year. Or rather what a slow year. To be more accurate it has been a spurts and sputters kind of year as fas as sacred journeys go. We had a fabulous trip out to Delphi in Greece that seemed to be the promise of something special. But then the weather back home in the UK has been abysmal and has interrupted sojourns as well as giving of the distinct feeling of…now is not the time. Finally though, Beltane festival day arrived and Gwas and I had planned to spend the day visiting some new sacred sites.
In the previous (Beltane -1) post I mentioned how we had a strange synchronicity to begin our journey. After that episode we started on the longer trek (1.5 hours) to a place that Gwas had determined to be significant for his part of today’s quest, a Hermitage. We arrived in good time to the general location and stopped at the side of a field to get our bearings.
Examining maps and iPhones we agreed that we needed to travel a few miles further along the road before we arrived at a suitable place to begin our explorations. However a nice surprise was that when we got there we realised that we had been wrong and that our original stopping place had been the place we should have stopped. Which was perfect!
As we set off on the slight climb through a lovely wooded area the sun was shining like a mid summers day. I can tell you that this was a blessing of unbelievable proportions considering the weather we had had of late. So with the sun keeping us company we were of good heart and pleasant cheer as we made our way to the easily accessible hermits home.
Within about 15 minutes we arrived at the hermitage, which was a small cave in the side of a hill. Although to be honest, the front of it looked a bit like the front of a small house…judge for yourself.
As is our usual modus operandi Gwas and I separated off to prepare and commune. I grabbed the rods and asked whether I needed to prepare in anyway. The answer was yes and I was led off to the other side of the hill and up the slope to a place where I had a beautiful vantage over the village below and with the sun shining on my face (sun boy!).
I spent a few minutes basking, energizing and cleansing (again?) in the sun until I felt ready to utilise the energies of the hermitage. The rods agreed. I returned back to the hermitage and used the rods to determine how to approach this site. The rods pointed me to a place just outside the structure. What was this? Another preparation? It was certainly an odd pattern I walked. It began by bouncing off the window on the left, then the one on the right and then pointing inwards almost, but not quite near the entrance. As I mused on this odd pattern I drew it on the ground in front of the structure.
Moments later I felt I was ready to proceed and dowsed for the right way into the cave. The rods took me inside and faced me outward by one of the windows. When I looked out I saw that the diagram I had drawn was right before me, pointing right at me. No surprise there then. As I stood, looking out at the sun kissed vista I let my senses drift.
You know, I am occasionally accosted by certain individuals as to how quickly information comes when communing. “It’s not my fault” is my normal response. It just does. So, as in other cases, this was no exception. As I left myself open to the spirit of the place, a voice boomed into my consciousness.
“Why are you here?”
What? My immediate conclusion was that this was a question regarding my current geography i.e. Why have you come to this place? I was about to respond with my purpose of the day when I got a follow up…
“Why are you alive? Why do you exist?”
Oh…Ah…I see. Was this metaphysical question going to be the next question? I broke of my connection to ask the rods i.e. my intuition? And they confirmed that this was indeed the second of my nine questions. What am I supposed to do with such a broad and deep question? At the time of writing, I don’t know.
I was done. After this amount of time doing these sacred quests one gets to know the “you’re done” feeling. So it was time to do a gratefulness ceremony which involved several incense sticks and some good vibrations.
Well done, was the thought I left that hermitage with. It was a nice site which delivered more than expected. Beltane was proving to be an exceptional day.
Kal Malik 2 out of 9!
When writing up these quests we tend to go for the salient and relevant points. However we have so often find that innocuous little details play significant parts and so, more for ourselves than anything else we add those bits here – just in case. Here is one such entry.
Gwas wanted to visit a well to begin with and I tended to agree with the idea so he picked me up around 9am and we were off. The well he had in mind was local to where I live and so having put the address (Vale Road) into the satnav and finding an overview of the map that seemed to fit what the map for the place looked like we headed off.
As we got close to our destination I noted with some surprise that we were in the area that my sister lived. What an odd thing. Some more minutes later we actually turned into the road that my sister lived on. Now I was really surprised. Why had we been taken to a site that was quite literally neighbouring my sisters home?
Parking up right next to a wooded area around the back of my sisters home we were out amongst the trees searching for Chad’s Well. Nothing! After many minutes wandering around we deduced that we were not in the right location. Even though the satnav map of this area seemed to match the map we had printed out of the wells location.
Further investigation revealed that there was another Vale road some five miles from our current location. What! That looked like a more likely candidate and so we were off again. This time we had it right and as we parked the car, the sun came streaming out and warmed the air and our being.
A short walk through some lovely houses led us to the easily accessible well. As you can see from the picture it was a place that had a lovely feeling to it. Relaxing in the sun against the wall of the well gave the feeling that this was definitely a place of cleansing and preparation. I dowsed for a place and facing direction to do this and ended up in the middle of the road facing the sun. Of course it was.
I spent some minutes in this pose letting the energies within myself balance out and be replenished. It was a lovely feeling. Particularly because this was the first bit of decent sun that we have had in a long while.
Some time later, after gifting the Genius Loci of the Well with some incense and thanks, we were ready to begin our purpose filled quest. For me this was to seek another question in the nine that I had been tasked with at Delphi.
All in all a good and interesting start. The interesting part being, why had we (I) been taken to my sisters home first? Was there a reason? Just to allay your inquisitiveness an answer wasn’t forth coming on this day…perhaps in time to come?
Kal Malik puzzled.