Tag Archives: druid book

Dear 501

There are, to my surprise, now 501 of you subscribed to following this blog. (I know it says more at the bottom, but that’s because wordpress likes to include twitter followers in the maths, and that’s a wee bit like cheating.) So, I’d like to start by saying thank you, for being here, for taking an interest, for the thoughts many of you drop by to share, and for the comfort you give me in knowing I am not shouting into the void.

When I started this blog, I really had no idea if anyone beyond a few immediate friends would be interested. But here you all are, and most of you, I do not know personally. You startle me, in the best possible way.

Since starting this blog, I’ve written 2 non-fiction books on Druidry. There’s a third in process, and there will also be a smaller and broader piece on spirituality in the offing. I’ve had one novel and one graphic novel come out, too. I’ve gone from ancient family cottage, to narrowboat, got my bloke into the country, married him and gone through the paperwork needed to keep him. When I started blogging I no longer felt I belonged anywhere. Now there are many places I call home, chiefly my lovely publisher Moon Books, and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’ve gone from being entirely obscure, to a little bit heard of, such that I’ve seen my quotes in other people’s books and I get queries from librarians and stuff, and people ask me to go places and do things. This also startles me, but I’ll admit I rather enjoy it.

So dear 501, plus anyone else who has wandered in to read… thank you for being here. If there are things you would like me to write about, do say. If there are events you would like me to show up to, do ask. I’m more aware than ever right now of just how much I love to be out and doing, how much it means to me to connect with people, and to come up with stuff that has some utility.

Onwards, towards whatever adventures await…

My love affair with Ronald Hutton

I should begin by saying this is an entirely intellectual consideration and, so far as I know, quite entirely one sided! It began years ago with The Pagan Religions of the British Isles (can’t recall the exact title, but that’s the gist.) Stations of the Sun, confirmed me in my infatuation and I’ve been collecting the good Professor’s pagan books ever since.

There are many things I love about Ronald Hutton’s writing. His uncertainty is incredible. So much writing in all subjects is about asserting theories and showing how the evidence supports it. To read work that picks through the evidence and talks about the limits and inadequacies was a revelation for me. The very notion of uncertainty has become intrinsic to my own Druidry, and to how I think about a lot of things.

Ronald Hutton is present in his own work, in a way many academic writers aren’t. He’s not afraid to say ‘I’ and drop in personal takes, as personal takes, moments of insight and other details that lift the content out of the dry, dusty norms of academia and make it a lot more readable. I read a lot, I read widely, and I’ve crawled through many a book that claimed objective certainty. I’d rather have a sense of person and some sense of who I’m dealing with.

I love the humour. Often cutting, sometimes downright catty, there aren’t many historians who have ever made me laugh out loud. It’s a subtle sort of humour, a tad subversive, and utterly delightful.

Then I read Blood and Mistletoe. Ronald Hutton going in-depth on the history of the Druids. It was a hard read. Like many people, I came to Druidry wanting there to be a clear connection between Druidry old and new. I wanted there to be ancient wisdom, and certainty, and I wanted someone to know what it was, even if I didn’t. This book systematically stripped away many things that I had wanted to believe, and then presented the Monty Pythonesque insanity of the revival Druid movement. Reading it, and for some time afterwards, I felt lost. Where did I fit now? What did it all mean? How do I call myself a Druid and keep doing something that has meaning, in the context of all this uncertainty and more recent embarrassment?

The need to answer Blood and Mistletoe pretty much prompted me to take up the work that led to me writing Druidry and the Ancestors. I did get to swap a few emails with Ronald Hutton as I was working. I didn’t end up asking him to read the whole book because he was clearly very pressed for time, and I didn’t want to impose. He did say nice things about the bit I ran past him, for which I was hugely grateful, and it gave me the courage to keep going with what was a very difficult project.

He remains my hero.

Announcing the next book

I’ve been talking a bit about this on facebook, so I thought a blog post was probably in order too, now that dates and whatnot are confirmed. My second book on Druidry will be out in November of this year. I’ll admit I was surprised by the speed, but Moon Books are a nippy sort of oufit, not like bigger houses, where it can take years for a book to see the light of day.

So, the next one is Druidry and the Ancestors. There were a number of thoughts underpinning the choice of direction. Firstly ancestors come up in Druidry rather a lot but I’m not aware of any books tackling how we relate to our ancestry, as druids.

Secondly, I read Ronald Hutton’s Blood and Mistletoe, which flags up how little we know about the ancient Druids – we have material to speculate upon, but none of it is issue-free. He also makes clear just how problematic our modern ancestors of tradition were – Iolo Morganwg and his contemporaries. When I read it I felt a powerful need to try and respond, to think about how we construct ourselves as modern Druids, conscious of our history and the problems in it, but still valid. In many ways, this book is me trying to start that process. I’m aware that Hutton’s work has changed what OBOD present to the world, and have no doubt that in coming years we will see more work that tackles the thorny subject of where we came from.

The third thing was my personal life. I spent six months in a cottage that had belonged to my family for many generations, and that had an impact on me. I’m also dealing with a child who detests his birth father, who needs to engage with his bloodlines in meaningful ways (not just my side of the family) and who needs to define himself in ways that do not relate to the birth parent he loathes. Working with pagan groups down the years I’ve been conscious for a long time that many pagans have stepped away from the beliefs of their families, and that many of us have a lot of problems with our most immediate ancestry.

So, this is not entirely a book about the Druids of old, although they are in the mix. It’s about how we think about all kinds of ancestry, how we construct ourselves, and so forth. It was not an easy book to write and I’m conscious that plenty of people might disagree with me. I’ve tested it on enough folk to be confident that it’s not wide of the mark and I have a lot of faith in my publisher and editor, but, I may be going to ruffle feathers.

But, for the extra win, I have my bloke’s art on the cover of this one. And, with all due reference to previous blogs about the covers of Druid books, yes, there’s a tree on it!

As an added bonus, it looks like I get to launch the book at a Druid muster in November, if all goes to plan. Watch this space….

Writing Druid Books

When I first started exploring Druidry, quite some years go now, I was terribly excited about the books I imagined I would be coming into contact with, thanks to advice from wise teachers and those further down the path. You know the ones: The books of ancient wisdom. The books that would tell me how to be a druid. The books of mystery and wonder that would enable me to see the world in whole new ways. Those books. Based on observation, I think a lot of young pagans anticipate the existence of such great works and many are disappointed. I found lots of introductions to Druidry, lots of things that hinted at deeper things and refused to tell me how to do them, or told me that I could only learn then directly from an actual, physical teacher. I was not pleased. I’d just finished the kind of degree that had convinced me that, really, anything worth learning could be learned by reading about it.

My natural inclination is to read. These days I use the internet a fair bit too, as well as books, but I am more likely to want a book about a thing than any other method of learning. That may be hardwired. However, there just aren’t the books out there to teach me the things I want to learn, and that’s been the case for more than a decade now. I expect the teachers who could teach me are out there, but one lives in a hut half way up a mountain and doesn’t have a website. One only speaks Russian. One was tragically killed by a bear last week, and four of them are, themselves, still in their teens and have not yet grown into their own greatness. Or so I like to think. So, where the hell does that leave me?

One of the things that bugs me about books on modern paganism, is that an awful lot of them are very general, introduction type books. Especially in Druidry. There are some people who feel that you can’t even write a book on Druidry without devoting the first chapter to yet another rehash of the ancient druids, the revivalists…. And I’ve got to say, if you’ve read more than two books on druidry already, that can get a bit much. I want a world in which everyone has to read Ronald Hutton, and then everyone else writing about Druidry can start the book by saying ‘read Ronald Hutton, I’m not doing the potted history.’ Think how much paper and frustration that would save! It was suggested to me that I do a potted history at the start of Druidry and Meditation. I didn’t. I also don’t want to get bogged down trying to explain what modern Druidry *is* every time I write a book. Again, more than two reads, and you’re going to be heartily sick of that debate.

What I want to read, are books that go a lot deeper into some facet of Druidry. If you know of good ones, please, please put them in the comments at the bottom. Robin Herne’s Bardic book is already on my to-read list, Kevan Manwaring’s The Way of Awen is a favourite. Brendan Myer’s The Other Side of Virtue really took me places. Books for people who are not beginners. Books for people who have already read some books, done some rituals, have a sense of where they want to go.

In the meantime, I’m trying to write something useful. I wrote Druidry and Meditation because when it came to trying to run a meditation group, I couldn’t find anything to help me. The title now in edits came about for similar reasons. I was going through a thing, I had no book to help me on my way. I’m working on book 3, researching, pondering, experimenting a thing that does not have any significant pagan books about it, so far as I can find.

Which brings me to the final question. What ‘Druidry and….’ book do you really wish someone had written? Where are the biggest, most aching and frustrating holes in your bookcase just now? I’m not at all promising I can write them, but I’d like to know, and maybe someone else will look at the list and say ‘bloody hell, I know so much about that topic, I could do that’ and will then do it.

Shall we give it a go?