Author Archives: Nimue Brown

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. 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.

Cycling Back to the South Pacific

I’ve read Anthony Nanson’s novel Deep Time, and can certainly recommend it. This is a fascinating blog about the prehistoric plants that are still thriving in some part of the world. Enjoy!

Anthony Nanson's Deep Time

Pacific 050One thing I always intended to blog about was my field research for Deep Time. I’ve done a post about the trip to Gabon, but not yet about the one to New Caledonia – and now I’m about to return there to research something else.

New Caledonia is a French territory in the South Pacific, about 1000 miles north of New Zealand. The reason I went there in 2007 is that its flora includes many kinds of trees similar to those which flourished in the southern continents during the age of the dinosaurs, and so travelling there would help me to picture the scenery of that distant time. For example, there are lots of different tree ferns, palms, cycads, araucarias, and podocarps (pictured: Araucaria muelleri). The story behind this is that the main island of New Caledonia split away from Australia 85 million years ago, carrying with…

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Holding up mirrors

We all hold up mirrors for each other, and use other people as mirrors. Often it’s not conscious, and often we have no idea whether the reflections we see are clear and true, or alarmingly distorted. Here are the methods I’ve been able to identify, there are probably others.

We project, and then see in the other person things we don’t like about ourselves. We don’t know that we’ve made the other person into our mirror, so we may well try to punish them for how uncomfortable the likeness makes us feel.

We assume that everyone is just like us and would naturally mirror our feelings and thought processes. When they fail to be this kind of mirror, we can get confused, upset and even angry.

We see things that, when other people do them, look terrible, tragic or otherwise uncomfortable. We may not be able to see it that way when we do all the same things to ourselves, but if we can recognise the mirroring in this situation, both parties can help and heal each other.

We can hold up mirrors made of compliments, encouragement, love and support so that the person we are showing the reflection to sees themselves in the best possible way. This can help them have faith in themselves to be that person, and more.

We see the worst in what a person does – all the flaws and inadequacies, all the scope for ghastly motives, and we reflect that back to them. We show them the worst of themselves, and undermine their sense of self with it, or make them angry and defensive. In reflecting and expecting the worst, we can push a person towards being and doing the worst that they can.

We can have beliefs about what it means to be the other sort of person – as Pagans we can still be hit with crazy ideas about what Paganism means. It can be disconcerting to be reflected back as the other person’s prejudices and unfounded assumptions. (Examples – you are not thin and therefore you are lazy. You are poor and therefore talentless. You are lgbt and therefore predatory etc).

If we’re really paying attention we can hold up mirrors that simply reflect back something true about how the other person is, but this is the least likely outcome, I suspect.

We won’t always be conscious of what we’re doing, but the more alert we can be to the idea of playing with reflections rather than reality, the more scope for spotting it we get, and in turn that means not having it take over.


Druid Community

It’s easy to waft the term ‘Druid community’ around (I’ve no doubt used it) but is it fair to say we have a Druid community? Probably not. It may be fairer to say that we have lots of smaller Druid groups, because many of us around the world are in no way connected to or affected by each other.  We discernibly have orders, groups and groves, but whether it is fair to call those communities depends a lot on what you think a community is. I thought I’d throw some not all-encompassing suggestions out there.

The aspect of community that Druid groups most reliably have and do well, is that we gather together to do stuff. Shared activity is, to my mind, key to a community. The counter example is that all living in the same place does not make a group of people into a community if they all ignore each other!

For me, community means a reciprocal process of care and support. We look after each other. Often in larger Orders, this is quite unbalanced. In OBOD, mentors look after students, and there are people who look after the mentors, but the students don’t usually know other students so can’t help them, and would not expect to be taking care of their mentors in turn. As a teaching structure, this is fine, but I don’t think it works in terms of ‘community’. In smaller groups where people live close together, there may well be this wider involvement in each other’s lives.

Community is defined to some degree by its edges. Who is welcome, and who is not? What do you have to give, pay or accept to be able to participate? Who isn’t accommodated? I don’t think there’s a clear definition here around which boundaries signify community and which suggest something else. However, the more participation depends on money, the more exclusion there is for other reasons, the less community there can be. If all we have are people who are very much the same as each other, we don’t have the diversity to create a robust community. We might think of that in terms of age, life stage, education level, financial situation, mental and physical health, mobility, ancestry, and more.

For me, what makes a community is in no small part the willingness to at least try and accommodate anyone who wants to be part of it. Community means negotiation, hearing difference, accommodating diversity of wants, needs, outlooks and intentions. It means people working together, not gurus or other forms of ‘glorious leadership’. Sure, having people in charge of one aspect or another can be productive and necessary, but in a community, that’s about getting stuff done, not an ego trip.

Communities also have to endure over time. Yes, we can come together for a weekend, or for a brief time online, or for a ritual now and then over a couple of years and feel very close to each other, but that’s not community. It has the makings of community. A real community endures. Its leadership can change. People within it can go through different life stages and still find there’s room for them. Something that is recognisably the community continues, being more than the sum of its parts, more than any one person.

It’s ok not to be a community, I should point out. Teaching, ritual, healing, and events can bring us together in wonderful ways for short-term reasons, and that’s great. We don’t have to be fully functioning communities for that to be well worth our time.


Sheena Cundy

Sheena Cundy is another of the under-sung people of whom I have been a fan for some time. I’ve met her in person – she’s lovely. I’ve heard her band twice (at time of writing this) – Morrigans Path – overtly Pagan and great to dance to. I’ve read her novel – The Madness and The Magic, and greatly enjoyed it (there’s a review here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/friday-reads/ )

Here’s a track from Morrigans Path

 

Find out more about them on their facebook page or on artist trove

Here’s a little flavour from Sheena’s novel

Sheena quote

And you can find out more about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/madness-magic

And this is Sheena’s website – http://www.sheenacundy.com/

 

 


Pigeon magic

I’m interested in re-enchantment – for me, I assume the world is plenty enchanted enough and that I’m just not always good at seeing it. Some things make it easy to feel awe, gratitude and enchantment – a fabulous sunset, a bat skimming low over your head, a close encounter with a fox. And then there’s pigeons. Not the brightest, or the prettiest, or the best singers. Numerous, foolish, occasionally shagging on the roof opposite my window. It’s hard to imagine anyone proudly announcing the pigeon as their spirit animal…

I like to challenge myself, to see the good in things, or the other dimensions of them, to see wonder in the mundane, and so on and so forth. So I set myself ‘pigeons’ as a challenge.

They are a challenge. They’re the noisiest things in the wood, the exact opposite of a ninja with their flappy, quirky flying. They panic each other, walk out in front of cyclists, forget they can fly away to safety, peck anything that might be food. In town they sidle up to anyone eating – not aggressive like seagulls, but optimists and opportunists. Sometimes they ‘sing’ loudly outside my window at first light, and it is hard to hear the beauty in their song, or to be charmed by it.

They have been loved, of course. There’s a history of pigeon racing, because they will find their way home, no matter what, and those same home-finding urges have been used to carry messages in the past. They, and their eggs were also an important part of the mediaeval diet, so far as I know. They have been more valued than they are now.

Mostly we meet the pigeon as an urban creature, more feral pigeon than woodpigeon, eating fast food and crapping on statues. It doesn’t cast them in the best possible light. I’ve also seen pigeons rise in a flock together, coming up out of the mist and bare branches of a winter wood. They had a majesty then, and it was hard to think, watching the flock, that these were the silly birds I am used to.

Which only goes to show how importance context is, and that most things aren’t very enchanting when you catch them in an urban setting with dodgy takeaways. Humans included.


My Inconvenient Truth

I am a rock in the stream.

I choose to be still,

Let water wash over me,

Flow around me,

Break in waves against

My obstinate self.

Your flood will not

Change what I am.

Tumble me in the current,

I am still a rock in the stream.

Wash me up, discard me,

I am the rock

That was in the stream.

I am myself.

Erode me over years

Into crumbs of limestone,

In my fragments

I am still the rock from the stream.

My form is not my whole self,

I have a history of being,

Waves cannot break that.

Unmake me, send ice fingers

To prise me open

Bring bigger rocks to shatter me.

I have still been myself

And my ripples will continue

Long after my breaking.

I am the rock in the stream.

Truth in my stillness,

Waiting for the flood to pass.


Witchlit and Spiral Nature

The Bed, by Laura Perry.

Oh what a glorious read this was! A witchlit novel full of magical realism, strange occult happenings, supernatural beings and … haunted furniture! I read it over a couple of days, immersing myself in the world of Liz – upcycler and folk artist – whose world is sent spinning into chaos by the purchase of an antique bed. The writing style is utterly engaging, the characters complex, the situation intense. It’s great reading occult fiction from someone who really has a feel for the traditions of both writing and practice – it feels real. It feels like someone could really have been through all these things (assuming your reality accommodates the supernatural). There are some serious messages in the book about knowing what you’re up to, and not assuming that any spirits you might interact with are inherently benevolent. Alongside all the supernatural shenanigans, Liz’s family, friends, and the man attempting to become her fiancée are portrayed with skill and depth, making it all feel very rooted in this world, this life. For me that’s a key part of the genre – the real world stuff has to be persuasive to ground the magical aspect of magical realism. The magic has to be real enough to not stretch credulity too far, while also feeling genuinely magical. For witchlit of course the magic has to make a certain kind of intuitive sense, and this absolutely does.

This ticked all the boxes for me – a heroine who isn’t fresh out of school, and who has as a consequence a more developed life and character, with real life issues, and a nice mix of independence, and cooperativeness. A surprising story, that keeps you guessing right up to the end. Loved it!

More about the book here – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/the-bed

I recently reviewed Lupa’s book Nature Spirituality from the ground up for Spiral Nature. This is my first Spiral Nature review, and also my first time reading a full length Lupa text, although I’ve been following her blog for a while. It’s a great read, and the full review is here – http://www.spiralnature.com/reviews/nature-spirituality-from-the-ground-up-lupa/

More information about the book here – http://www.thegreenwolf.com/books/nature-spirituality-from-the-ground-up/

 


The Clottabussed Hero’s Journey

I’m on a mission to imagine as many different kinds of ‘hero’ journeys as I can at the moment. So, this week it falls to the clottabussed hero. The term ‘clottabussed’ comes from Matlock the Hare, a series of books where the lead character is most certainly on a clotabussed hero’s journey.

The clotabussed hero does not set out to be heroic. They’d probably prefer to be doing something else. They aren’t especially competitive folk, and this is in no small part because they have no stand out abilities. They are never fantastically clever, they aren’t gifted with anything much except their good natures and their desire to do the right thing. Harry Potter, Bill and Ted, Sam Gamgee, these are classic clottabussed heroes.

In many ways, the clottabussed hero is much closer to us than the overtly heroic, dragon slaying, maiden rescuing hero. They end up doing things because those things really need doing, and no one else will, or they do it by accident, or in their ineptitude accidentally trigger the thing that causes someone else to save the world, or foil the plot, or whatever it is. One of the greatest strengths of the clottabussed hero is that most of us can see ourselves in them, and within their stories, it’s their shortcomings that often endear them to those who might help.

The clottabussed hero’s journey is always one of collaboration, because they have neither the wit nor the means to go it alone. Their good natures and willingness to admit cluelessness means help comes to them. They may work in teams with other equally inept but well meaning figures (Labyrinth springs to mind; confused and useless Sarah would be lost, literally, without her team). A great deal of good natured comedy can be extracted from the clottabussed hero, and they don’t tend to mind the laughs at their expense, because they don’t have much ego, and know that they’re all too likely to make a mess of things.

Along the way, big events can happen, but they aren’t essential. The clottabussed heroes of fairytales end up doing things like pulling up enormous turnips, mistaking vegetables for eggs and hares for baby horses, they have to stop their own magic porridge pots from overflowing and drowning the village. However, most of them find friendship and a sense of place in the world. Their cats sort their lives out for them. By the end of the story, the clottabussed hero is in a place of gratitude, appreciating friends, comrades and helpers, conscious they couldn’t have done it alone, but also aware that they may be better than they first thought.

The Hero of Campbell-style hero’s journeys gets to the end and has to figure out how to get back and fit in with their tribe again. The coming back is hard for them, and they feel misunderstood. The clottabussed hero comes home like Dorothy ‘there’s no place like home’ to hug all the people who look very much like the folk who helped her with the adventure. Dorothy is a fine example here – she doesn’t mean to thwart witches or bring down dodgy leaders, she just wants to go home.

In thinking about this blog, it dawned on me that Owen from www.hopelessmaine.com fits this kind of model. He’s not especially clever, has no magical skills (although he learns to make talisman and the like). He seldom knows what to do, but he’s a good team player and he means well.


Working with an uncooperative body

I’ve been in pain for years, and had come to think of it as normal. I know that lack of sleep, insufficient  oil, stress, using regular air beds, and being cold all make it a lot worse, and I’ve managed it as best I can based on this. At the same time, I’ve had dire burnouts every six to eight weeks for something like a decade. Deep pits of depression, related to exhaustion. Every time I’ve dealt with it by getting back up and at it.

This July wasn’t especially dramatic as a crash – pain, emotional dysfunction, loss of energy and willpower, despair – all the usual. What changed was that I just couldn’t face the process of getting up and doing it all again and trying to hold out for as long as I could before the next crash. My best efforts of recent years have only widened the gap between crashes, not solved them.

I made a radical decision to start putting my body first. To start paying close attention to what hurts, and when I’m tired, and acting on that rather than pushing through it. This has meant things like going to bed when I’m tired, no matter what time it is, asking my family to cover for me, saying ‘no’ to things. I’ve put down some voluntary work that had become stressful. Alongside acting to reduce pain, I’m looking at ways to build strength, flexibility and resilience, ways to get more emotional outlets that help me stay resilient, and reducing stress. I need more things in my life that enable me to feel good, and fewer things that leave me feeling shitty and I’m reorganising accordingly.

I have no idea what the consequences of doing this will be. Fewer reasons for anxiety will certainly help, and more rest, reducing exhaustion should help counter the depression. At a deeper level, the decision to put care for my body much higher on my list is about changing my relationship with myself, and not practicing self-harm or self-hatred as part of normal life. There have been plenty of times when I’ve pushed my exhausted body to keep doing things by inwardly hurling abuse and criticism at myself. On the really bad days, it’s self hatred that has kept me moving, reminders of how useless and worthless I am and how I need to get my sorry arse in gear and justify my existence. This too, I am putting down.

The decision to be kinder to myself is a decision to treat myself as an acceptable human being with the same needs and rights as any other human being. I’m not expecting this to magically solve all my problems, but it might give me the means to better deal with the days when I really hurt, or really have no spoons, and I have come to the conclusion that I’d give anyone else the chance to heal if they can and manage things better, and I ought to extend that to me. This year I have started saying ‘I matter’ – which feels radical, and dangerous, but I’m saying it anyway. My body is something I’ve called uncooperative, but I think it is my mind that needs to change, accommodating my limitations and not adding to what’s already difficult.


What people always say to Writers.

So much truth here, and a charming blogger and author you may enjoy reading his work. I always find him to be both a bit of a giggle, and reliably insightful.

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

It was recently said I look like a writer, which I tried to pretend wasn’t shorthand for appearing socially inept, malnourished and skint. They then asked me what genre my novel is.

It’s a regular question, and in light of people invariably asking the same things upon hearing that you are a writer, it would be a good idea to have well-prepared answers, which makes my lack of them even more inexplicable.

The most common is, ‘Are you published?” like it’s something that inevitable happens to every writer. Of course you want to grab them by the lapels and scream ‘D’you have any fucking idea how hard it is to get published?’ It’s not something you choose as an option at A-level . If I was published I would be (even more) unbearable, and you’d not be able to enter my house due to piles of unsold copies of the novel…

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