Tag Archives: druid camp

Things I have been doing

This is by no means all of it, skipping over the dull bits, the realms of ‘too much information’ and the things that have not found their shape enough for me to want to try and talk about them, but, here are some things that are happening…

Last night I was interviewed by Steve Noble, talking about Spirituality without Structure. http://www.cygnus-books.co.uk/magazine/2014/06/spirituality-without-structure-nimue-brown/ It’s about twenty minutes, and was a good experience – some interviews flow better than others and I enjoyed doing this one. It’s odd for me because I finished working on this book about 18 months ago, and have been writing about a lot of things since then – but the most recently released book needs talking about like it’s fresh in my mind… always a challenge.

While I’m plugging things, let me alert you to the monthly ‘alternative wheel’ posts I do At Sage Woman 

I’ve got a couple of events coming up – in July I’m participating in Stroud’s First ‘Clocking off’ Festival – yes, that is a festival all about dying.  On the 11th July, Tom and I will be at Black Books cafe, with ‘The Ultimate Punch Line’ – last words, obituaries and of course… gravestones. A light-hearted look at how death puts our lives in perspective.

Then there’s Druid Camp at the end of July, where you can find me at the green and white stripy tent… http://www.druidcamp.org.uk/ More on that nearer the time.

I have two books coming out this summer. One is Pagan and about prayer, the other is Steampunk and was co-written with Professor Elemental, and you’ll be hearing far too much about both in the coming months. The Steampunk one has a lot of gags about dodgy Victorian hermeticists in it, though, just to muddy the waters a bit.

I’ve just started doing some blog work for JHP Fiction, which I’m really enjoying. It’s good to be using my skills productively, and having some steady income is always a delight. One of the great problems being a household that lives by its creativity, is the financial uncertainty, but this year we’ve stabilised, and that’s really good for the sanity. Flying by the seat of your pants from one month to the next is not conducive to making good art, unless cracking up is your art form of preference…

There should be another Pagan title next year – I figure one a year for those is sustainable. I am working on the second professor Elemental novel, and Hopeless Maine vol 3 gets uploaded to the publisher in a week or so. I am wondering about the novel I started late last year, but have not gone back for another go, so far.

And if you’re wondering how I’m going to fit that into a working week alongside the Green press officer job and this blog, having a spiritual life, a social life and a family life, the book reviews, and the other things I’m dabbling in… well, yes. I’ve been wondering that too. The last month or so I have juggled a surprising amount, so I’m mostly going to assume that I can, and hope for the best.

With other hats on

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Over the last few weeks, the political work I do has mostly taken over my life, leaving little time or headspace for anything else. I’m not natural politics material – I very literally do not have the right kind of hats for this, but at the same time, with so much going awry out there and so much need for change, I really feel I have to show up and do what I can.

Nonetheless, it’s a bit of relief taking off the political hat (metaphorical for now) and putting on other ones instead. This photo was taken by author Jonathan Green at a Steampunk event in Frome last weekend (where by comparison to others, I was still a scruffy urchin even with this on…). Tom and I did a workshop, aired our gear, sold books and hung out with Mr Green.

I wear a lot of different hats – some more actual than others. I’m working on becoming a marketing department for people who need a bit of that now and then. I’m aware that the people who most need marketing support are often those least able to pay for it. The blogging hat seems to have grown recently and can now be pulled down over my ears (more on that another day). I’ve acquired an art-assistant hat, I’m occasionally useful to Andrew Wood but now also doing a lot of shading for Tom as part of the Penguin graphic novel project. Apparently I’m good at feathers.

The parent hat is fairly low maintenance these days, apart from helping steer the boy through the emotional challenges of his changing body chemistry. The Druid hat is waving at me – it is that sort of hat, it might not be corporeal but it is certainly animate. I have a new book coming out soon, and I’m now a lot more involved with Druid Camp than I had thought I would be – I’ll be looking after the Green Grove which is all about walking your talk, and will include a talk from Molly Scott Cato neatly coming back to the political stuff… And I’ve been getting the music hat out and finding people to play and sing with, which is wonderful.

Somewhere at the back of the cupboard is the author hat. The one for writing fiction. It used to be a comfy hat, but then I stopped wearing it and now I’m worried it doesn’t suit me, or that if I go looking I won’t find it, or it won’t fit… It used to be the most important hat I had. This was the hat that defined me as a person for much of my life. That needs a proper re-think. It’s not my Steampunk hat, because I write a lot of other stuff too, nor is it the same as my Druid hat. So, in the spirit of authorial procrastination, I need to figure out what it looks like, and start wearing it again. It occurs to me that an actual hat might be really helpful in this regard. Suggestions?

Honouring the numbers

Years are numbered in arbitrary human ways, and this is just one of the many points when people have deemed that a solar year has ended and a new one commenced. Still, I am a sucker for culture and traditions, so let’s sweep a bow to the rolling on of those meaningless numbers anyway!

2013 was in many ways better for me than the years before it. Highlights included getting off the narrowboat, and actual warm summer, the joys of Druid camp, starting Auroch Grove, and lots of hill walking. The new luxuries in my life- plentiful hot water, a toaster, reliable internet, have resulted in me being a lot more comfortable and feeling a lot better as a consequence. The sheer joy of a permanent bed has really enhanced my life.

On the downside there have been more political nightmares than I want to have to think about. Bedroom tax, climate change, fracking, the badger cull… so much that is hideous and wrong, that at times I have felt overwhelmed with despair at the state of the world.

I’ve learned a lot about politics in the last six months or so. I’ve read vast reams of political history and current thinking, trying to understand what’s happening and how best to make a positive difference. Alongside that, I’ve made a long study of prayer practice across religions, and started putting together what I know about dreaming. I had a novel come out (Intelligent Designing for Amateurs) and a Pagan Portal book (Spirituality without Structure) and the second volume of Hopeless Maine. There was travel – Doncaster and Scarborough were excellent experiences.

I have more sense of direction than I did this time last year. Back then it was still very much about survival and getting some control over my life. Now I’m thinking a lot more in terms of what I can do. What can I add? Where can I make a difference? Where am I needed? I have a lot of projects underway, and I know that next year is going to be both busy and interesting. I spend more time looking forward than I do looking back, and a lot of time getting on with whatever now has brought me. My days are full, busy and interesting, and I’m spoiled for choice in terms of opportunities to go out and have new and interesting experiences. Sometimes the downside of this is that I end up very tired, which can make me ill, but I’m learning when to stop and how to balance things.

The last year has forged some very strong relationships for me. I have a sense of being part of a community, and a network of people with whom I feel very much engaged, who inspire me, and with whom I am able to share all manner of things. People to walk with, to share music with, to contemplate with and who share creativity with me. There have been a few mistakes on that score too, and a few hard lessons but as I get more confident about who I am and what I want, it gets easier to see where I fit and where I should therefore invest my time and energy.

I’m anticipating that next year there will be Hopeless Maine part three, Professor Elemental the novel, and a book about prayer all in print. I will be at events in Frome and Bristol, and at Druid camp. I mean to try and do the epic Five Valleys Walk, and to sit out overnight on the hills. There will be more music, and more reconnecting with people I lost during the hermit phase. There will be adventures and I am going to attempt a few crazy things (more on that as I do it). I feel more positive about this calendar shift than I have about any other in a long time. I feel like I’m winning, and I think I know what I’m doing, where I’m going and how to achieve my many and curious goals.

Druidry against shame

One of the repeated themes for me at Druid camp, was the issue of facing down that which is shaming. There’s a world of difference between being ashamed of genuine shortcomings and errors, and quite another having someone shame you. Shaming is a widespread activity. When we are made to feel shame for things we have no control over, or for things that are important to us, when we are shamed by others for our mistakes and shortcomings, humiliation is inevitable. It is a painful, self-reducing process and there is no good in it.

At camp we had naked people. We had the red tent exploring menstruation and other generally unspeakable women’s mysteries. Shaming around bleeding and the female body is widespread. There were stories of people shamed, and of shame resisted.

There is a role for ‘name and shame’ tactics. When people undertake to deliberately do the wrong thing, when there is hypocrisy, when power is corrupt and abusive, then calling it out is important, and there is a place for drawing shame down upon the head of the perpetrator. However, there’s still that difference to hold between recognising an action or behaviour as shameful, and shaming a person. The point at which we say ‘this bad thing is on the inside of you, and you are therefore a bad person’ is a troubling one.

I have learned, in the sharing of stories, that bearing the humiliation of exposure can be very powerful. One of the reasons I have repeatedly put my blood, pain and fear into the public domain is I’ve realised this enables other shamed people to speak up, to acknowledge what has been done, and to make some moves away from being in a state of shame, or pain. The two often run together. It doesn’t help that our culture tends to view acknowledgement of weakness, or injury as shameful. I still find it hard to cry in public. It does not help that professional people have attempted to shame me for weeping.

Today, I heard a story about a brave boater who has put a humiliating letter into other people’s hands, making a stand for justice. The Canal & River Trust habitually sends out the kind of letters that shame recipients. For a proud and independent soul, being told to go and get council housing when you shouldn’t need it, is shaming. Putting that in the public domain, feels humiliating, but I’m going to raise my hand and say, me too. I had one of those. I was told that the home I had paid for would be taken from me and that I would have to go and apply for council housing. And the shame of it burned deeply. That shame keeps us silent, afraid of what will happen if we draw further attention to the way in which we’ve already been humiliated.

Shaming only holds power if we let it do so. As soon as you can face it down, meeting the eyes of the aggressor and refusing to be humiliated into silence, then shaming ceases to be a weapon someone can use against you. Refusing to be shamed for who we are, what we are, for our natural bodies, for our hopes, beliefs, ideas and dreams is not an easy choice. It is far simpler to accept being slapped down, and not to fight it, and invite further ridicule and harassment. It is also a way of having bits of you cut off.

I am going to learn not to be ashamed of my body. I am not going to allow bullies to humiliate me into silence. I’ll keep saluting those other brave souls who show their wounds publically so that others know they are not alone.

Naked Men

There are times and spaces at Druid Camp where you can expect nudity from people of both genders – around the showers and sauna, especially. There’s also some informal nudity, generally in the mornings, people sunbathing and not getting kitted up until the day starts. Before I went, I knew about this and had no idea if I would cope. The idea that naked men would be intimidating, had certainly crossed my mind. I had no idea how I was going to feel about that one, evidently I’d only know by showing up.

In our wider society, the naked male body is a serious taboo, and nothing is less socially acceptable than a willy in a state of arousal. Unless you happen to be in a museum looking at Roman artefacts, in which case, you can have all the up and about penises you could possibly want. The accessible display of breasts is normal. Go into a newsagent and you can pick up breast images with little difficulty. Willies are rude. Or perhaps, one might equally say, that culturally we are perfectly happy to treat the female anatomy as a commodity for entertainment, but that we afford far more dignity to male genitalia.

But either way, naked men are something you don’t get a lot of in normal circumstances. At least, not unless you have a really interesting sort of day job…

I’ve probably seen more naked men in the last week or so than I had in my entire life to this point. Yes, apparently I’d had a more sheltered experience than I had previously realised. Before Druid Camp, I had only experienced male nudity in the context of relationship, and it would be fair to say that not all of the experience was good. I’ve learned to trust and feel safe with my bloke, but unfamiliar men? That scared me.

Only, it was fine. A bit odd, I admit, but not distressing, or frightening or threatening in any way. I spent a while trying to work out why, and came to the conclusion that it was simply this: There were no weapons on display. There was nothing predatory. No one touched me without clear indication that I was open to being touched. No one unclothed even attempted to get into my personal space. Respectful naked men are no kind of problem at all. Men with too much self-respect to use their bodies aggressively. That was a profound learning experience for me.

I do not know if it would be possible for me to get to a point of feeling so confident, so secure, and able to trust, that I would be able to countenance a communal shower or a sauna. A matter of weeks ago the mere suggestion of it was enough to make me feel physically ill. Now it’s just an uncomfortable idea. I’m not ready to go there. I’d like to feel that I could, if I wanted to, whether I actually do or not.

Back to the real world

I’ve just spent days in a field, mostly barefoot, which in and of itself is an unusual experience. I went from Wednesday lunchtime to Saturday night without wearing shoes at all, and it affected my consciousness of the world to such a degree that I’m now finding shoes a problem. I feel disconnected when I put them on.

I’ve spent recent days in the company of gorgeous, creative, inspiring and unconventional people, doing all manner of wild and fabulous things. I have proper reviews to write, but shall give myself a day or two of digesting time first. Now I am back in a flat that suddenly seems very quiet and I miss the sense of being held and surrounded by a community of kindred spirits. And such kindred spirits! A significant number of my very favourite people, all gathered together.

I’ve not used my phone, my computer, or the internet until this evening, when I’ve needed to play catch up. This has enabled me to really slow down and chill out, which has done body and mind considerable good. I’ve danced and sung. I’ve also played. Music shared with brilliant musicians is such a joy, and there should be more of that to come, and it feels very good.

I’ve faced fears head on, and some of them melted away, which was a lovely thing, and some are smaller. I’ve faced challenges, and enjoyed recognition. I return to the computer feeling stronger and clearer in myself, more certain of what needs doing and of how to do it, and starting to put the pieces together.

There’s been enough experience in the last few days to keep me in blog material for months to come. That alone says something. Real world Druidry, with people all in the same place, is powerful stuff. I come to the internet to share, and to learn from others. This is an awesome way of moving inspiration and ideas about. I love the intellectual aspect of the internet, and appreciate the way in which it feeds my mind. Emotionally, it’s a bit sterile, especially compared to people in a space. Voices. Touch. Shared food. Being able to look at the same things.

I need to rebalance my life so that more of it happens offline, and that rather than coming to the internet to seek nourishment, I want to be coming with more inspiration I have found out here in the real world. Druidry with people. I like it a lot.

Camping it up

We’re off to Druid camp. We’ve pondered what on earth to pack, what might not go off in a field in hot weather, what clothes might be useful, and we’ve borrowed a tent. We’ve got the buses all figured out, and yes, as Tom asks from the background, I did pack the tin opener. Mister Cat is off on a vacation of his own, where he will no doubt be pampered silly. It’s the closest we’ve been to having a holiday in a couple of years, but I think we’ve earned a breather.

There’s going to be music, and I’m taking my violin, in the hopes that I might be able to jam with some people. That’s a bit nerve-wracking, I’ve done so little playing out lately. There are workshops to run, and I’ve done more of that lately with other events, but still, the frisson of nerves are a given. The lingering fear that, like Rimmer from Red Dwarf when faced with an exam paper, I will say ‘I am a fish’ four hundred times, do a little dance, and pass out.

I did consider taking the computer, as there should be some electricity and I can get online via Tom’s phone. I considered blogging in situ. Then I thought… what is the point of going to sit in a field with a lot of other Druids, if I insist in taking the trappings of my working life with me? So, the comp stays at home. I’m going to use the power of wordpress to set up a few things to post automatically, so that there’s some content passing through, but nothing too arduous. I’ll be back on Sunday, and whatever state I’m in can be announced to the world at that point. I’m pretty sure no one actually needs a blow by blow account.

Talis Kimberly will be there with her band, so listening to her is high on my wish list, too. There are so many people I haven’t seen in months, and probably too many people I haven’t seen in years, so I’m planning to spend as much time as I can making contact. It’s possible there will even be some Druidy stuff. My workshops are music orientated, so I’m not planning any formal Druiding, I don’t feel any urge at all. We’ll see what happens, and what the connections between people lead to. It will be enough to have my bottom on the ground and nothing else to be thinking about.

If you are going, I’m going to sneakily mention that I have a box full of books – mostly Druidry and the Ancestors, and Druidry and Meditation. I have a few copies of Intelligent Designing, a handful of Professor Elemental comics, and one display copy of Hopeless Maine. We’ve nearly sold out of volume one! Tom will also be carrying art and I hear rumour of a market place on Saturday. Hmm, that’s a bit like work…. But it’s days away.

Forest of Dean, land of my ancestors (well, some of them!) here I come. I shall gaze upon your rolling hills, and enjoy the different view of my beloved River Severn, and try very hard not to kick Kris Hughes if he gives the talk about how no one round here honours Sabrina. Mind you, he’s bigger than me…

Druid Camp

In just over a week’s time, Druid Camp kicks off in The Forest of Dean. I’ve been before as a day visitor, but this is my first go at doing the whole thing. The lovely organising folk invited me to come and do some stuff. Mostly at the moment the closest I get to holidays is going nice places for work purposes, so being able to work a ticket to Druid Camp means a lot to me. It also gives the boy a splendid few days of free ranging and experiencing, as he will no doubt be getting involved with the yoga and exploring his new enthusiasm for all things woolly.

Druid camp offers a huge breadth of experiences and opportunities. Dance, yoga, stav, arts, crafts, music, sweat lodge, rituals, talks, workshops, entertainment. Leading lights, such as Ronald Hutton, Kevan Manwaring and Kris Hughes will be there. All manner of people from the Druid community will also be sharing their thing. It’s a great opportunity to learn, connect and be inspired.

I shall be teaching two forms of subversive creativity. I’ve been in plenty of circles that feature chanting and/or drumming. Either it’s a brief process, rapidly burned out by boredom and self-consciousness, or it tends to be a lengthy opportunity for tediousness. Chanting and drumming tend towards the repetitive. Now, there is a theory that through repetition we clear the mind, entering trance-like and meditative states. This is fine if you’re a dedicated practitioner. However, if you’re just some regular soul who turned up at a circle, ennui is far more probable than enlightenment.

There are ways of taking chanting and drumming, and developing them creatively. These are the most basic forms of human music, (no drums required even, we can do improvised percussion). Keeping it basic makes it easy to get involved, but learning to play with it makes the process more interesting. Then, if you can really give yourself into the experience, really engaging with the music you make with the people around you, it can have a real effect. When we do these things creatively, opening to inspiration and awen, attentive to each other, amazing things can happen.

What we do in these workshops can be taken back into ritual. The percussive approach is especially good, because a ritual circle can be encouraged to go through their pockets for things to improvise with, try sticks, stones, their bodies, the person next to them…. Engaging with the space to find the means to make sound, is powerful all by itself.

The basis of subversive music making, is actually listening. Rather than banging away on our own drum, or belting out another round of ‘we all come from the goddess’, subversion begins when we undertake to really listen to each other, and the quite that holds the space we are in. There’s a lot more to drumming and chanting than just making noise.

Do come along and play with me next week, http://www.druidcamp.org.uk if you need more information. If you would like me to bring a little musical subversion to your circle, let me know. Also, if you’re doing a thing at Druid camp, do tout it in the comments.

Of service and community

Nothing brings a person’s true nature to the fore like hard times and conflict. In difficulty, we see who is motivated by integrity and who puts ego first. We see who the peacemakers are, who the honourable warriors are, and who is all piss and wind. We see the control freaks, the fearful, the vindictive and the bloody stupid. All that is best, and worst in people tends to show up in the hard times.

Communities are difficult things. When two or more druids are gathered together, there will be disagreements. There will be personality clashes. There will be visions of how the world works that cannot ever be reconciled. This does not mean we can only hope to be groves of one, it means we need to work, and we need to have good and honourable intentions. This comes back to what I was saying recently about facilitating, rather than leading. A facilitator is not running something to massage their ego. A facilitator does what needs doing. A leader, on the other hand, will blithely do things that are not in the interests of their community, for the sake of themselves.

Bards of the Lost Forest had a core of three whose world views were not compatible. We made a strength of it, because it meant that there could be no core dogma, nothing others had to fall into line with. We accepted the different perspectives, and all was well. This was easy because we were collectively there to run an event, not to be important.

I’ve had a lot of experience of organising things over the last decade, and spent a fair amount of time in the company of other people who organise things. If you want it to go well, you have to be doing it for the love of the thing, and not for the desire to look good or be important.

It is difficult when the druid community has an occasion for collective shame. The last thing I want to do is stand up in public and draw attention to these moments. But at the same time, we should cast our eyes in the direction of the Catholic Church and child abuse, to remind ourselves what happens when we pretend not to see. To the best of my knowledge, we aren’t on that scale, and I pray we never will be. But in the meantime, we should not accept any kind of leadership that exists to serve the ego of the individual and not the good of the community.

I’ve been in conflict situations before now. I’ve had to consider what I needed, and balance that against what was going on in a wider context. I had a thorough stabbing in the back from people in my folk club, many years ago. I know what it’s like to be put in an unworkable position. While I did what I had to do to make things viable for me, I also kept my folk club going. I did not let my community down, but I did have some people leave it – their choice, not mine. Often, there are no perfect solutions to these things, but a bit of thought and care for the consequences and some attention to timing and detail goes a long way. I’ve found myself in conflict situations on the druid side too, times when public venting of anger and resentment might have made me feel a lot better, but could have caused untold harm to others. I’m proud to say that I didn’t do what I might have done.

People can, and will vote with their feet when they find themselves encountering ego and bullshit. To those of you who undertake to run things I would say, you are there to serve. If you aren’t there to serve, do not expect support.

To those many of you, facilitators and participants, who are doing what honour demands – in whatever form that takes – who are acting out of care and integrity, I salute you. Hang on in there. You represent the very best of what druidry is, and there are a lot of you.  More than enough to carry the day, to find the good, to make something worth having.


I’m not commenting specifically on Druid Camp, of course, having no direct involvement. I wish peace and the best of luck to those people trying to make a go of it, and have every sympathy for those who have felt obliged to step back.