Author Archives: Nimue Brown

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things.

Druidry and community

When I first came to Druidry some twenty years ago, part of the attraction for me was the social aspect of it. Groves and Orders, open rituals, music and those first online spaces. I was in an area where a fair bit of in-person stuff was happening, and able to travel further afield sometimes to connect with other Druids.

The social side of religion is an important aspect of it for a lot of humans. Many of us long for a place to fit and a community to be part of, and many of us find those vital social connections through our spiritual lives. It’s normal to crave approval and validation, and religions generally give people opportunities to prove their devotion.

Community has the capacity to amplify things for us. When people bond together around good causes and the need for positive change, this can truly bring out everyone’s best qualities. It’s easier to be your best self when you get social approval for your generosity and kindness. Getting involved with a fundraising activity where a lot of people come together to do something good is affirming, and encourages you to do more of that thing.

It’s worth giving some thought to the things your Druid community focuses on to make sure that aligns with the qualities you want to develop in yourself. Some groups are very much focused on ritual and spiritual connection while for others coming together in the same place will be primarily about performing and sharing creativity. Online spaces are often more focused on learning and thinking, which works well for the more philosophically minded. Moots are good for people seeking to meet their social needs and can be particularly valuable for folk who are otherwise solitary.

The key really is to find a space that answers your needs. Sometimes it works to go into a space and ask for there to be room for more of the stuff that speaks to you. And so it is that moots sometimes develop open ritual groups, and ritual groups spawn study groups and moots end up with a lot of bardic content, or a whole table full of philosophers. All of these things are valuable.

The social side of Druidry allows us opportunities to be inspired and uplifted by each other. It may motivate us if we have people we want to impress, or delight. I know there are a lot of arguments out there against the idea of anything that looks like ‘ego’ but I’ve read enough mythology to feel that there’s plenty of room for bombast and good kinds of showing off, and that these things are only at odds with being spiritual if you’re part of something that teaches you it is good to be humble. Feeling socially recognised and valued isn’t a non-spiritual state and feeling validated by our communities can do a lot to help us work on things we find challenging.


Gratitude for the second chances

Like most people, my life has been messy and thus far has not gone as I hoped or intended. I muddle along, as we all do. There was a younger version of me who was alive with plans, hopes, dreams and the will to try and make them real. I’ve had varying degrees of success.

I’ve been through things that broke me down and damaged me. I’ve lost parts of myself to those experiences. I’ve knowingly cut bits off myself and tried to be smaller on numerous occasions, in the hopes of being safer, or being left alone at least. There have been people in my life who hurt me by accident because they too were lost and scared and flailing. That’s always forgivable, even if I don’t always choose to stay around for more of it. There have been people who did the best they could, but where that wasn’t actually much or enough, and that’s forgivable too. We all have people like that, and sooner or later we are also people like that.

I’ve had a few years now where the best I could give in any aspect of my life wasn’t really enough. It’s been hard all round. I am hugely grateful for the time and space to recover from what’s afflicted me, and the opportunities I am given to try and do better.

What’s done me the most damage were the individuals who set out deliberately to harm me. I recognise that I’m not good at holding boundaries, but I’m also not into victim blaming. I have a lot of anxiety around not being good or useful enough and that’s an easy thing to exploit, which in no way excuses the people who saw those weak points and exploited them.

I have learned some lessons. I’m getting better at not appeasing people, and not being instantly persuaded that I am wrong and everything is my fault. I have some considered responses to conflict now. For the people I am really close to, I will get in and try to explain and work things through no matter what we’ve run into. If I commit, I commit hard. For most people, I’ll try and go at least a few rounds sorting things out if there is difficulty. I’ll check for miscommunication, I’ll try to understand their perspective better and so forth. If I can make headway, I’ll stay in. Decline to meet me half way with that, and I’m gone.

There are now a lot of things I don’t give people second chances over unless they genuinely matter to me. I just move away. I don’t want the drama or stress of people who want to fight and don’t want to listen. I do not stay if I’m just going to be a punchbag or scapegoat.

Alongside this I’m increasingly aware of having been given some amazing second chances recently. These aren’t second chances with other people, although I would not have got to this point on my own. This week I wrote a story that felt like the kind of thing I was writing in my early twenties. It gave me back a part of myself and I feel more whole and functional for that experience. I’m also becoming able to reclaim other parts of my previous self, especially how I used to think and feel.

I feel like I’m getting a second chance to be myself. I can’t unknow what I’ve experienced, and I remain affected by what’s happened in the last twenty years or so, but I feel like I’m back on the trajectory I had as a much younger person. I can carry all of what’s happened, and reclaim my whole self, and carry on from here as the version of myself I wanted to be, back before pain and shame taught me to think that person was not ok.

That person was ok. I am ok. I am not someone who deserves to be knocked down and humiliated. I’ve got to a place where I can get on with doing what I’m called to do and being the person I am. 


Closing the windows

This is always a key point in the wheel of the year for me – the closing of the windows. It’s now cold enough that the windows have to be shut at night. There will no doubt be days when I can have them open for a while – or choose to put up with the cold in order to freshen up the air in the flat a bit.

With the windows closed, I can’t hear the nearby stream while I’m lying in bed. Every year I feel this loss keenly. I won’t pick up the subtle sounds of leaves and birds or of fish jumping, as they tend to at night. I might not hear the foxes and badgers who sometimes pass under my window at night. I will still hear the owls because they come in close, and are loud, and we often don’t have any significant background noise that would drown them out.

Many people this year will be facing the implications of a cold house for the first time. Closed windows can mean waking up to condensation. If you can’t keep your home warm, it will get damp. Having damp beds is horrible, and will make you even more cold. If you’re new to all of this I cannot emphasise enough the value of staying dry even if you can’t stay warm. Being dry means not having mould, and is less cold than being damp at the same temperature. 

If you have no money to throw at this problem, the only option is to throw time and effort at it. Of course not everyone can do that, and this situation is cruellest for people who are ill, disabled or so overworked that they do not have the resources to handle even more work. 

You might be able to cut down the amount of moisture in the air by reducing the amount of boiling you do, and cutting the length of showers. Drying laundry is a nightmare if your home is cold and you also can’t afford to run clothes-drying technology. And when it works you just add more problem-moisture to your home.

Physically drying all the windows every morning helps get water out. Opening windows when you can helps with the damp if it isn’t also damp outside. It doesn’t help at all with the cold. 

If you can afford to invest in anything, or run anything then I recommend going for a dehumidifier rather than a heater. They aren’t that expensive to run, and they do add warmth. They speed up the drying of laundry and they are good against dampness and mould. Not everyone is going to be able to afford to do that, either.

Whatever you are up against this winter, I hope you’re able to find ways of coping and managing. I’m afraid that for a lot of people in the UK, things will be grim.


Body Positivity

How most of us feel about ourselves is very much informed by the feedback we get from other people. We’re also all very much influenced by our family backgrounds and by the cultures we live in. 

There are multiple large industries that make their money out of persuading people that their bodies aren’t good enough. We’re sold stress and insecurity, and then we’re sold the products that might give us some respite from that unhappiness. Except the products never work and someone meanwhile is inventing a new thing to feel inadequate over.

Humans get older. We aren’t all pristine and shiny like newly made plastic toys. Life impacts on us, and it would be a kinder, happier world if we could just get on with being how we are, without fear of shame or ridicule.

Which brings me to this lovely song and video from Madam Misfit…

Let’s lift and encourage each other where we can. Celebrate the bodies we have, and appreciate the people around us.


You can’t get this wrong

I am by nature a worrier. I suspect I’m more inclined to take responsibility for things than is good for me, and too slow to ask people to up their game when it might be better to do that. There are always new things to learn. There’s so much around interaction between people that is informed by each person’s individual history, expectation, assumption and so much that we can improve with simple approaches to taking care of each other. So, this is a post about mutual care and support.

I had a remarkable lesson around this recently. I was exploring something where I felt out of my depth, and one of the people I was exploring with said ‘You can’t get this wrong.’ It was a liberating and empowering moment. I’m perpetually anxious about getting things wrong, and being offered space where that explicitly could not be an issue was really powerful for me.

I’ve held this kind of space for other people in singing workshops. There’s a chanting technique I like to open with where there is truly no way of messing up. I know how reassuring that is to hear – you can’t get it wrong, and how that kind of safety creates space to explore and experiment. It’s impossible to learn without feeling you have at least some space to safely make mistakes, and no one should be pushed straight into unfamiliar things where they have to get right first time things they have no experience of.

While hearing that you are in a space where it is safe to make mistakes is good, the idea of not being able to get things wrong brings up something deeper. It’s a validation that whatever comes from you is good and welcome. Even if that only applies to a specific situation, that reassurance can still be really effective. Humans can be judgy creatures and many of us are wired to fear humiliation or anything that might compromise us socially. Most of us need social validation and affirmation that we are good enough. 

‘You can’t get this wrong’ turns out to be the most powerful affirmation I have ever heard. Unlike far too many of the affirmations I’ve run into, it doesn’t push my inadequacy buttons or make me feel like I’m being lied to. It is of course vital to only use it when it’s honestly true, because telling someone they can’t get it wrong and then deciding that they have got it wrong would be a devastating judgement.

I will be looking for opportunities to use this idea. Sometimes it might need a little framing. So long as you do X – where X is easy and doable – you can’t get this wrong. If you’re making an altar, so long as it’s physically safe, there’s no way of getting it wrong. You can’t get prayer wrong. You can’t get communing with nature wrong because all you have to do is try and there you are, doing it.

All too often it can seem like the struggle inherent in something proves its worth, your worth, your seriousness and devotion. I’m going to be giving a lot more attention to looking for things it isn’t possible to get wrong, and hopefully I’ll be back to talk about this in more depth around specified opportunities to not mess up.


Messing about with leaves

I have a great love of colour intensity, in art and in life. One of the things I often struggle with in winter is how muted the colours are. However, autumn is rich with colour and I invariably have some adventures with leaves.


Attraction, bodies and culture

Human bodies are such interesting things. We’re a diverse sort of species. We come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, colours and builds. Some of us are naturally quite furry and some of us are skinless landsharks and all places in between.

The bodies we have are affected by our health and our ancestry. What we eat and how we spend our time will all have their impact. Most cultures have standards for what counts as especially attractive and that’s diverse too.

To what degree is our capacity for attraction informed by our cultures? What happens when our desires don’t neatly match what we’ve been told to want? Or when our bodies aren’t considered socially acceptable? One obvious case in point here would be the obsession some cultures have with youth being the standard for beauty. We all get older, and fighting that process is pointless – but it does make a lot of money for beauty industries.

For me, attraction doesn’t begin with a body. I can find people aesthetically pleasing without feeling any urge at all to follow through on it. If I connect with someone emotionally, then I will find them attractive. I don’t have a type exactly, I’m not much affected by gender or gender presentation. I tend to go for high cheekbones, but that’s about it, and it’s certainly not a deal breaker.

How someone’s voice sounds is a bigger factor in attraction for me, than what they look like. I assume it wouldn’t be a dealbreaker but at the same time I’ve never been attracted to someone I didn’t think had a gorgeous speaking voice. I’m also really affected by how people smell, although that’s not easy to spot when it’s happening. We can unconsciously gather a lot of information about each other from smells, so for me it’s only been when people’s smells have changed that it’s registered with me.

I’m very much attracted to creativity, imagination and unusual minds. I like interacting with people who think deeply, and who are interested in things, and excited about things. What exactly they are into turns out to be less important. I like spending time with people who have passions and wild enthusiasms. 

Who we find appealing informs so many aspects of our lives. It’s not just about romance and sexual partners. It’s there in how we pick our friends and our social spaces. It can inform who we vote for and who we hire. There’s a lot of privilege that comes with conforming to certain kinds of beauty standards and lots of scope for abuse, shaming, disrespect and disadvantage the less you conform to those standards.


Inspiration for revolution

I’m always much more motivated to create when I can see what purpose that may serve. This is as true of my writing as it is of any action that depends on manifesting inspiration into the world. I won’t cook an elaborate meal for myself, but I will certainly do that for other people.

Like everyone else, I need to be able to afford to eat, so ‘will this sell?’ is a question I have to ask. However, along the way I’ve found that things written in the hopes that they will sell don’t do any better than things I wrote because I thought they were needed. If I’m passionate about something, the odds are at least some other people will be too, and that tends to work out ok.

I’ve run into the idea around ‘fine’ and ‘high’ arts that if something is Serious Art then it is art for art’s sake. I’m the sort of person who wants to make essential and useful things that are also cheering in some way. That’s why I craft. We ran into this last year when Tom and I put on a Hopeless, Maine show in the local gallery. A fair few people who came to look at the work commented that they don’t usually go into that space because they don’t feel that what’s in there is for them.

Things that are supposedly made for everyone tend to be box tickers designed by a committee, often targeting what they imagine to be the lowest common denominator. Creativity doesn’t have to be deliberately exclusive in order to oppose this and be clever and good. The sweet spot – to my thinking – is making things for people. 

One of the key stages when I’m creating is to establish who I am creating for. With a craft piece I usually have a specific person in mind. When I’m setting out to write something, I may have one or more people in mind – usually the longer the piece, the larger the imagined audience, but there’s always someone specific in there. I write for Pagans and Druids, for steampunks and for people who like speculative stuff. I write for my friends. I find it really helps to think about what would entertain, engage and delight a few specific people I know well and I know like the kinds of things I tend to do.

I also find there’s nothing like encountering need to focus my inspiration. If something needs doing, or fixing, or figuring out, my brain gets right in there.

Humans are intrinsically creative people. We’re problem solvers and innovators – not just a special few of us, but all of us. Being able to make answers to our problems isn’t just a useful skill, it’s empowering and uplifting. Having the inspiration to make change is one of the most powerful forms inspiration can take in our lives.

It’s good to delight in arty inspiration, but it’s important to remember that inspiration is not just here for making pretty things of no great consequence. Inspiration is how we get things done and fix what’s wrong, and that inspiration has never been more needed than it is now.


Crafting for survival

It’s widely recognised that crafting is good for your mental health. Doing simple things with your hands can be really soothing. There’s a meme floating about out there about how it answers an existential crisis because you get in there and eventually you have a sock! It’s a simple way to be powerful and to make changes which helps a person maintain their sense of being someone who can change things. Being able to make stuff you can use is incredibly empowering.

I recently saw a suggestion online that we might have evolved for craft. The willingness to sit around patiently making things must have had huge survival impact on our ancestors. Be that making storage vessels for food and water, making clothes to keep warm in the winter, making tools, or any other day to day items, having them would result in a more viable human.

Perhaps on some level, our bodies know that crafting keeps you safe. Crafting is how we get everyone through the winter. So we are soothed by the process of making.

As an enthusiastic crafter I am enchanted by the idea that how we are as humans might have things to do with evolving to feel good about making stuff.


Hawthorn

Despite the drought this summer – or perhaps because of it – the hawthorn berries are especially luscious. I’m not sure I remember ever seeing them this plump.

As the autumn progresses, that bright red will fade to a duskier shade, as berries are striped from branches by birds, rodents and squirrels. Perhaps this abundance will help keep creatures alive in the coming months. I have no sense of how badly the wild beings were hit by the summer heatwave, but my feeling is that we lost far too many of them.