Tag Archives: new year

Druidry and the New Year

New years create an obvious focal point for reflecting on where we’ve been and thinking about where we are going. Life is full of such opportunities – birthdays are another, and we could equally do it at full moons, dark moons or simply at the end of each day. For me, reflection is an important part of Druidry. This is the path of a life lived consciously. It’s why I get grumpy when people instead advocate for living purely in the moment. I think we need to be engaged with our immediate lives, but that we need to balance this with reflection and time spent deliberately looking back and looking forward. A life lived only in the moment is an unconsidered life, and to me that’s not Druidry.

I usually take the turning of the year as an opportunity to reflect and plan. 2020 has been so strange that I’m not sure I can do that. Hugely important things happened to me around my sense of self, possibilities of enchantment, rediscovering magic, love, heartbreak, and confusion. All of it feels too raw and immediate and I still don’t know how I feel about this year. It will take time. Equally, with the world so unstable and uncertain, and the virus still rampaging in the UK, it is hard to make plans or set goals. But, here’s what I’ve got…

I need to focus on my mental and physical health and whatever the coming year throws at me, I’m going to try and make that the most important thing.

I’ve learned this year that intellectual stimulation is super-important for me, and that lack of brain workouts have been contributing to my depression. In answer to this I’ve started learning Japanese, and I mean to carry that forward in a dedicated way.

I’m going to be rethinking lots of things around how I work and what I do, how I organise my life, and a lot is changing in at least one of my key relationships and that’s all good. I can’t draw a map at this point, because the way forward will require experiment and co-operation and it makes no sense to try and set specific intentions this early in the process. My dedication is to the process and being open to wherever the journey takes me.

Life has always been unpredictable, 2020 just made that a good deal more obvious. Whatever else there is going forwards, we all need more kindness, more hope, and a more sustainable way of life.

Looking ahead, and something like resolutions

I changed tack with New Year resolutions some time ago, having figured out I was just using it as an opportunity to beat myself up. No diets for me anymore. No unworkable aims to somehow bully my body into being thinner despite that never having worked for me. Instead, I started coming up with ideas and aspirations to improve my life. That’s gone well. Last year I was short of ideas. This year, I am not.

I need to plant trees. This has been a thing for me for more than a decade, but until now I haven’t seen how to do it. I don’t have a garden at the moment. I do however have a cunning plan that will, in the coming year radically change my life as a whole, and move me towards the orchard I long for. More of this as I go along.

I aspire to having my normal working week be under 30 hours, and to work a four day week. That won’t be feasible around events, but I want to do it when I can. I will use the time this gives me for taking better care of myself, and doing non-economic things, like planting trees. I will read more, dance more, live differently.

I will spend more time in wilder places and at the coast.

I’m making the headspace to think more about how we do Druidry in the current political climate and in face of climate disaster. I’m going to be taking about that more as we go along.

I’m going to learn Welsh.

I want to wake up in the morning and wonder what I will be doing that day, and get to decide – clearly not all the time, but at least some of the time. I want to start the day feeling excited about what it might bring me.

I want to spend more of my working time doing work I am genuinely excited about. This looks increasingly realistic.

I’m going to treat my happiness and wellbeing as important – which I’ve not really been doing. I’ve got to the point where I can afford to, and there is no one who needs me to do otherwise. I’m going to re-invent my life, on my own terms, and in collaboration with the people who are choosing to be part of my life.

Looking back at the year

While the calendar change from one year to another is an arbitrary thing, is creates a useful point for contemplation. It’s good to stop from time to time and take a look at your life and ask what’s working and what isn’t. As I blog about this each year I also have something I can easily look back at to see where I was last time. A lot has changed for me, it turns out.

This time last year I had no ambitions, no creative sense of direction. I wasn’t really excited about anything and my major aim for the year was to daydream more and try to find something to want to do. Over the year I’ve found new forms I want to work in, people I want to work with and an array of projects that I’m excited about. It’s put me on a totally different footing.

It’s been a challenging year. I’m not sure I get any other sort! I’m conscious of wanting things to be a bit easier, or at least to have times of respite and rest so that I can re-charge. I’m trying to make that space and to see what would help me feel better. I need to make more time for things that nourish and uplift me. I think most people do. I think we get a lot of spiritual and emotional input that’s about as good for our hearts and minds as a diet of Haribo would be for our bodies.

I’ve become better at boundaries over this last year, and a good deal more willing to say no and walk away when something doesn’t work for me. I’ve become less anxious. I’ve started asking some really big questions about the kinds of relationships I have, and have had with people, what I really want and who I can do that with. I’m finding my people. I’m finding the spaces where I don’t mute myself and second guess everything. I’m recognising the people who want me as I am, and who I can afford to trust with that.

Tai Chi has had a big impact on me over the last year. It’s changed my relationship with my body. I’m tackling the impact of hypermobility as a consequence. I’m building strength around troubled joints and learning how to move in ways that cause me less pain. For the first time in my life I’m confident that my pain issues aren’t me making a fuss, and that I need to take it seriously and am entitled to look after myself. Between the Tai Chi and some of my interactions with people, I’ve become more patient as well.

Creatively it’s been an interesting year. I started a mumming side and took that to a few events. I got a singing group going with mostly the same people, and there are plans for taking that forward. I’ve focused more on my voice because problems with hand pain have made musical instruments tricky. I’m now exploring ways to not have the hand pain and getting on top of that is a new aspiration. There have been some collaborations, and more to come, and I’ll be sharing more about that here in the coming weeks.

I feel, for the first time in years, that I am on the right track. I’m doing what I need to be doing and I know where I need to go. All kinds of things are falling into place for me. I find that happens when I’m working along the right lines. It helps that when I know what I want, I can spot what will serve that.

I’m in the odd place of being horrified and alarmed about the state of the world, and also hopeful about my own direction for the coming years. It’s strange territory, emotionally, but perhaps it will keep me honest and useful in equal measure.

That New Year thing

An arbitrary date change is as good a reason as any to pause, look back and look forward. Since giving up the aspects of self-abuse and flagellation (lose weight no longer features on my list) I’ve come to rather enjoy the process of setting intentions and checking in at the end of the year to see how I did. The blog is decidedly helpful in this regard.

Last year’s resolutions were all met. I read more books, I sold a lot of books, and I did a far better job of picking my fights and not investing energy where it would clearly do no good. Last year I also resolved to go to the pub more, have more live performance in my life, and dance more, and these have been the areas of wildest success.

This summer I discovered Dawn Morgan’s 5 Rhythms classes, which are fantastic. I’ve gone once a month, ish, and my confidence, balance and joy in dancing have improved greatly. I’ve danced more at home as a consequence.

Stroud Out Loud (a monthly spoken word based gathering) became my opening gambit for ‘more live stuff’ and is a brilliant event, and has since spawned an occasional singing session that goes to the pub. This year has seen a fantastic upswing in my social life – improved energy levels and really feeling that I’ve found my tribe now. I’ve got people to do things with.

I intend to keep going with all of the things on last year’s list. So, here’s the stretch-goal list for 2017

  1. Improve my stamina so that 2 hours of fun stuff (walking, dancing) does not challenge me at all.
  2. Remove the mute button, and be as I am with more people more of the time.
  3. Ceilidh
  4. Write songs. Even if I only sing them twice in public, before I go off them, I want to do more of this.
  5. Cause more fun stuff to happen.
  6. Pick up some new skills (maybe craft skills, I don’t know, we’ll see what comes along).


Despite the international politics, despite the many environmental issues that worry me greatly, despite the many good and beautiful people who died in 2016, it was a good year for me overall. All years have their share of pain and challenges in them, that’s a given. And despite all the bigger picture issues, I feel optimistic about next year. 2016 saw a lot of changes, I think I grew and healed a considerable amount and I feel ready to move forward towards better things. More books. Lovely people. More walking and dancing and singing and going to the pub.

New Year Plotting

It’s that point when its tempting to look back and look forward, think about things, plot things. So, here we go. This last year has been ok – not terrible, not ecstatic, but a fairly functional mix of highs and lows, more progress than setback, and enough seeds planted for the future to feel hopeful. Most of the highs involved events and people. Most of the lows involved people.

In terms of last year’s resolutions, I did a pretty good job of working with them. I successfully increased the amount of cake in my life. I have not noticeably gained weight, probably the opposite. I have walked more – especially leisure walking, and longer distance walks. I did not manage to have this be as social an activity as I’d hoped, but people are showing up who do want to play, so I think that’s only going to improve. I did spend more time doing nothing. There’s still lots of scope to improve on this. One of the ways I’m improving is by taking more time off. I haven’t quite taken down capitalism yet, but I’m seeing more moves in that direction all the time from other people!

This year’s resolutions then:

  1. To read more books. Because books are good, reading for leisure is good, talking about books is good, lending people books is good and there’s going to be more of it.
  2. Go to the pub more. Not just to talk about books, but also as part of number three…
  3. Get more live music and other live performance into my life. This is in no small part about managing my energy such that I have the physical resources to go out in the evening more.
  4. To sell a lot of books. Not necessarily my own, although that would be fine, but to get more good books into people’s hands. Probably not by jumping out of darkened alleys ways dressed as Batman and thrusting novels into the hands of alarmed passers by, and demanding payment, but you never know.
  5. To stop angsting over unwinnable fights and focus my time on energy on doing good things that make a difference. Where ‘good things’ and ‘making a difference’ are going to be mine to define as I’m going along.
  6. To dance more. Possibly in public, possibly as part of resolution numbers 2 and 3. I used to dance a lot, I want that back.

Whatever you’re planning to do with 2016, I hope it brings you gentle abundance, peace, and the opportunity to share that around a bit to good effect.

New Year aspirations

New Year’s Day can be a traditional opportunity for self-flagellation. All those resolutions about diets, gyms, lifestyle changes, giving up smoking, drinking, achieving more… It can be less about making change and more about a chance to beat yourself up for shortcomings, real and imagined. As the next couple of months will most likely be grey, cold and depressing, its hardly an idea time to give up the things we find comforting, or attempt to make ourselves run around getting wet.
As a younger person I used to thoroughly indulge in this annual opportunity to give myself a hard time. Convinced I was far too fat, I would promise to starve myself. I have a very efficient body, I adapt to famine situations. Starvation attempts never consequently led to much weight loss, but they did play havoc with my body, and increased my predisposition to store fat. About as counter-productive as you can get, really. Not eating was a simple way to express the rage and frustration I felt with myself, for all the things I was not, and could not do well enough. An invisible form of self harming.
Looking back it is apparent to me that I had no sense of ‘good enough’ or of being an ok person. I felt under constant pressure to achieve more, get better results, earn more money, be more pretty, more likeable and all that guff. I had a great deal of external support in developing and holding that perception right through until the last few years. I also, from my teens, had a body that wasn’t working terribly well, and nothing useful from the medics – an early diagnosis of ‘psychosomatic’ left me feeling unable to ask for help. Maybe one day I will pluck up the nerve to go back and say, actually, that illness a doctor told me I was imagining? Well I’ve spent the last twenty odd years now dealing with pain and fatigue, and no amount of telling myself that it’s all in my head makes it go away. Any chance of a rethink on this? Maybe one day. When I’m feeling brave and have convinced myself there’s a point. In the meantime, I can work on accepting that this body of mine has limits and is a finite resource, and not keep pushing to breaking point on the grounds of thinking I *should* be able to do more than I can.
New Year’s resolutions are a useful opportunity to reimagine, and rethink, if you use them that way. It does not have to be an opportunity to pile on the misery, nor to set yourself up to fail. It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to figure this out. Better late than never. Not beating myself up has been an ongoing intention for some time now. Some days, I do better than others.
This year’s set goes as follows:
1) To be gentler with myself.
2) To say ‘no’ when I need to and to guard my energy and keep it for the things that matter most to me, respecting my own limits.
3) To be less tolerant of bullshit.
4) To invest more in the people and activities that really make me happy.
5) To devote more of my time to trying to put uplifting, inspiring, encouraging material into the world.
6) To boldly go…. (I’m not sure where, Brighton for one, but, places, and boldly).

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.

New year plottings

I’ve kept a diary since I was eleven, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Each year, the New Year’s resolutions have gone in, and for most of my life that’s been a yearly ritual of beating myself up a bit. For most of the way the intention to become thin and somehow attractive has underpinned my intentions every year. I did not have a good body image in my teens, I can’t say my twenties represented a vast improvement, while pregnancy left me with a lot of bulk. I’m nothing very unusual in any of those things. The standard New Year’s resolution to get fit, thin and healthy, is mostly about the thin bit. I’ve also made an abundance of worthy resolutions, to do more, try harder, achieve something. In essence these are all ways of reminding myself that I’m not really good enough as I am.

Over the last few years I’ve become more conscious of the ways in which I beat myself up. It helps that I have no external encouragement to do that anymore. I’m working on not doing that. I’ve also learned, via some self help and New Age books, the rather important truth that negative statements don’t work. “I will get thinner” is in so many ways a negative statement. “I will have a healthier lifestyle,” is a better way to be thinking. Positive affirmations are easier to work with and fulfil, and encourage warm thoughts about the self. Very few of us are going to benefit from having a stick to beat ourselves with.

Still, as the New Year rolls round and the arbitrary calendar date approaches, I still get the inclination to make resolutions. Old habits die hard. Plus its traditional, and I’m a total sucker for that. 2012 was a really hard year for me. For most of it there was just one horrible challenge after another, with a lot to stress over, a lot that did not go smoothly, the pressure of constant scrutiny (now mercifully at an end) and some legacy mental health issues that have been painful to face, much less fix. A bloody hard year, made harder by the incessant rain. I’m hoping 2013 will be gentler with us, although there are several big challenges ahead that I know are going to demand a lot of me.

Resolutions then. No diets. No worthy, virtuous try to turn into a much better person sort of projects. I’m a work in progress, and I accept that. What I really want for myself for this next year is to get the depression and anxiety under control so that they stop sucking the marrow out of me. To this end, it is my resolution to devote more time and energy to fun things. This will include getting to more events, where I get to meet cool people, travelling to see friends, taking time off, and making more time for the good things in life. I expect there will be a lot of work along the way, but this next year is going to have some play time in it as well.

A Druid new year?

Many Celticly minded people think of Samhain as the turning point from old year to new, which can make this Roman Kalends Januarious (How do you spell that, anyway?) business seem a bit like someone else’s tradition. Of course there are all the community reasons to get involved, just the same as Christmas. All the same pressures to feel like a spoilsport and party pooper if you don’t want to celebrate an entirely arbitrary and human change in the numbering system by drinking yourself into a stupor.

I’ve had some happy enough New Year’s Eve nights, merry and staggering across the date line. I’ve been to some painful parties where the forced jollity and thou-must –play-silly-games really got on my nerves. I’ve had quiet evenings with friends, and a bottle to very good effect. Last year I discovered that if I went to bed at the usual time I could start the New Year sans hangover, and no one actually minded. Apparently I’m now old enough that people don’t care if I confess to being too dull to party.

The other great tradition is of course the New Year’s resolution, in which people make declarations of intent that they have no hope of sticking to. Often these are less about aspiration and more about beating ourselves up for perceived inadequacies. The words ‘gym’ and ‘diet’ haunting many people’s shift into the fresh calendar year. I gave that one up a long time ago. I make light-hearted resolutions, if I bother at all. (This year is, have more fun, and be tremendously successful.)

So where does all this seasonal stuff leave a druid? Plenty of druid folk no doubt did stay up to toast the rolling on of the numbers. Even though what we’re counting is years from the supposed birth date of Christ. But it’s a good excuse to party, and most pagans don’t need much excuse at all. It’s another opportunity for excess, in case you didn’t get enough of that in during the Christmas bit. And then we all throw out our trees, our bags and bags of post-party detritus go to landfill and we shuffle grimly through January. The amount we waste and throw away at this time of year, makes me want to weep. But it’s all in the name of good fun, and it’s mean of me to say that people shouldn’t have a good time, right?

We’ve had decades of a party we couldn’t afford, shoving our consequent waste mountains into holes in the ground and hoping someone else will deal with it. How many hung over people this morning will be regretting last night? Who is feeling a bit sick now, a bit soiled? Who had to make another resolution to eat a bit less, do a bit more exercise? The partying that is daily life helps us drown out reality. Pile in the easy calories, the booze, the brain free entertainments. If you find yourself thinking at all, grab another beer, it’ll be fine. Keep running, keep buying, keep consuming. Whatever you do, don’t sober up emotionally because when you do, the mother of all psychological hangovers will be waiting. Culturally, this is what we do, all the time.

Being a druid on New Year’s day means not tuning out the vision of the many loaded bin bags outside houses. It means not pretending that it’s fine to do exactly what I want when I feel like it. Parties are good. I love parties, I love to drink and dance, laugh and make merry. Taken too far, it can turn into something that leaves you sick and hollow. If there is no soul in it, no human connection, no warmth, then no amount of excess can compensate. And so many people push after greater levels of excess to blot out that awareness of being hollow. Are we having a good time yet?

It’s not how much a person drinks that makes them happy. It’s not the price tag on the party dress, the exclusiveness of the venue or whether you pulled someone glamorous. If you don’t care about yourself, or the people you are with, none of that counts for much the morning after. Drunk or sober, a real friend is a joy. Cheap or pricey, a thing you care about enough to invest a bit of soul in, has immeasurable worth. A druid at New Year might be at the party, or might be in a wood – it doesn’t matter. It’s all about following your heart, acting with integrity, living fully in the moment. It’s not about going along with convention just for the sake of it, acting without thinking, or using chemical props to hide the inner darkness. Embrace the inner darkness, be at ease with the doubts and fears, and go to the party anyway, or walk beneath the stars, or both. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.