Tag Archives: re-enchantment

Fire in my head

The lack of fire in my head has been a problem for many years. I used to dream, plan and create from places of intense inspiration. I used to go there a lot. What happened to me is no great mystery – economic pressures, exhaustion, not being able to get anywhere much with my creative work, becoming demoralised and all that sort of thing. What I have kept going with to this point is largely discipline – that’s how I get this blog written. This is how I tackle Wherefore twice a week, how I’m writing Druidry and the Darkness.

I’ve spent most of my life writing. I have skills and experience and I know enough about putting words together that I can do a decent job without being on fire. A few weeks ago I was, for example, asked to write a poem about a gatehouse, for an event. It’s not a location I’ve ever visited, but, I know how to work, and it’s a decent piece.

I’ve missed the fire. I’ve missed writing from a state of passion and putting words down because I have to – for me, not for some economic goal or to do someone else a favour. I’ve missed being on fire. I’d got used to at best having the occasional tiny bursts that might make for a better than average poem. I’d got used to feeling like I am mostly ash and embers in the place where the energy of my inspiration used to burn brightly.

This year has been all about re-enchantment for me. I’ve been able to reclaim, and have been given back a great many lost parts of myself. It’s been intense and surprising, and there has been a single catalyst for all of this. None of it has taken the kind of shape I might have expected. It has been a strange, challenging time, and I’m certainly not through it yet. I’m in a process with massive implications for my sense of self, and that will, one way or another, very likely define much of my future.

This week, the overwhelming emotions of the last month or so coalesced into the need to write. It doesn’t matter if I write a whole book, or whether I fail. It doesn’t matter if anyone else much reads it (almost unheard of for me). It doesn’t matter if it’s any good (again, not a normal way to be feeling). It certainly doesn’t matter if it’s publishable (more usual). I have to write. I have to write this story. I have to sit down with it every day and put pen to paper. I haven’t written like this since I was a teenager.


The Way of Wyrd

This is not a book review. Having found my magical map recently, I’m on a deliberate quest to seek re-enchantment. I decided to start by revisiting books that opened doors for me when I was young. I think I was under ten when The Way of Wyrd was read to me. I read it to my own son at about the same age, it’s a wonderful book to share with a Pagan child.

Re-reading I realised that this book was a formative experience for me because of the underlying reality it describes. The web of wyrd, the interconnectedness of all things, became a key part of both my sense of reality and my notions of how magic might work for me. I think, on re-reading this, that author Brian Bates was also drawing on Taoist thinking. When I got to concepts of the Tao, it all felt familiar and a very natural match for my sense of how things work. At the time I didn’t consciously make that connection, but I was a curious teen and I wasn’t tracking my own processes. I didn’t need to.

Reading The Way of Wyrd opens up two further texts that I now know I need to revisit. Clive Barker’s Weaveworld may not seem like an obvious candidate for a formative spiritual experience, but I have a feeling it was and I want to go back and see.  I also need to re-read the Tao Te Ching with all this in mind. That’s a book I habitually re-read in various different translations.

The books that shaped me as a young explorer contemplating magic and spirituality, were fiction. I know it’s not an unusual experience. It’s something I need to think about more in terms of my own writing – fiction and non-fiction alike. It may not be an accident that my current fiction project – Wherefore over on https://www.youtube.com/NimueBrown has a lot in it about weaving magic. I started that theme weeks ago, long before I considered a deliberate quest for re-enchantment. It could of course just be coincidence, but it doesn’t feel that way, and the significance of creating a character who is a weaver and works with the fabric of reality, is something I need to spend some time with.

Wherefore is an unashamedly silly project, most meant to charm, distract and amuse. But at the same time, it keeps resulting in some of my most important (to me) spiritual work in a great many years. Being too serious doesn’t work for me. One thing is for certain – that laugher and merriment and the desire to cause happiness in others is part of my spiritual path and if I can do the things while giggling like the mad pixie I am, I will do a better job of it all.


Finding the magic map

A few days ago I blogged about the unexpected way in which my disenchantment had been replaced by a sense of magical possibility. Since then, I’ve found a magical map. One of the things that has made it impossible for me to rebuild is that I’ve been unable to see how to do it. How can I go from this demoralised, disenchanted state to some other way of being? Without some capacity so feel enchantment, there was no way forward.

The magical map occurred to me over the weekend. A territory with doors that might take me somewhere. I became able to see it because I’d been prompted to read a book that had a lot of content about ancient Egypt in it. I grew up heavily exposed to folklore, fairytales and myths, but Egyptian magic was the first kind of magic that child-me wanted to learn about and sought information on. I had forgotten just how much I knew, and having those memories rekindled was powerful all by itself.

It also reminded me of all the many things that functioned as portals in my young life. All the things I read and did, and that were important to me. These are the things that inspired me and shaped me. I can’t go back. I can’t be the person I was at fourteen or at twenty before I lost so much of myself. But those doors all still exist, and I can revisit them. I don’t know what will happen for doing that, but it strikes me as good territory to explore.

If I’ve learned anything in the last few weeks it is the power of letting go and trusting to the process I’m in, so I’ll do that. I have a map made of the memories of all the things that have been important to me along the way, and I will re-walk those paths, and remember, and rethink and see what of my magical self I can put back together.

I’m not good at trust, so the trust part of this process is really important. I’m not good at belief, but I’m not being called upon to do much of that, only recognise what is happening to me in this process, and to build on it. I am repeatedly startled and mystified by the way in which pieces of myself are being given back to me, and opportunities to heal wounds I’d long assumed I would just have to live with are occurring. Some of this is because I’ve done the groundwork to get to the point where this is possible. Some of it, without any shadow of a doubt, is simply happening by magic. A gift, a blessing, a spell, an enchantment, a wonder that is happening to me, conditional only on my willingness to accept it and let it change me.


Magical Thinking

Rather a long time ago now, I went through some experiences that left me not only disenchanted, but feeling unsafe about allowing myself to think magically in any way at all. My universe was a cold, hostile place and I could not expect it to treat me kindly. Before that, I’d been a person who was not just into but really good at divination. I’d lived with intuition and awareness and felt open and alive. I lost it all. Those of you who have read my books will know that I’ve mostly been doing my Paganism from a maybeist/atheist kind of position.

For some years now, Tom and I have known that we could see no way to level up from our current arrangement. There are things we want to change in our lives – where we live, what we do creatively – but we’ve been unable to get there from here. We’re not affluent or prominent enough and we’ve not got the right connections. We’ve been in a processes of resigning ourselves to this being our lives, while habitually saying ‘and then the magic thing happens’ if we want to imagine something ambitious we can’t see how to achieve.

It was, with hindsight, something a lot like a prayer or a spell.

In the last few weeks, we have instead ended up looking at each other and saying ‘and then the magic thing happens’. Because it turns out that we have invited magic into our lives in a very real sort of way.

It’s been a strange few months, where I’ve had to depend on the intuition I’d stopped using and didn’t trust. With important stuff to do and nothing like enough information, it’s the only tool I’ve had. But every prompting from that has been right. Verifiable stuff with significant implications. I’ve started doing divination again and started paying attention to the world in very different ways – I have been re-enchanted, no two ways about that. Something I had not been able to see how to do for myself, but… the magic thing happens.

What I know right now is that there is magic coming into my life, and that what I need to do with that is trust the process. Let go, and be swept away by it all. So I’m going to trust that intuition, trust what’s happening, trust what will happen and be open to anything and everything changing.


Lord of the Wyrde Woods – a review

Escape from Neverland and Dance into the Wyrde are two books but between them are one story so I’m reviewing them as a pair – their collective title is Lord of the Wyrde Woods. You have to read them in the right order and the first one doesn’t stand alone.

It’s been a while since an author has so completely captured my imagination. Neverland is a rundown area, with a facility for young people who have already fallen through the cracks. Narrator Wenn is one such young person. She’s had an awful life full of monstrous betrayals and setbacks, and she is as bitter and angry as you might expect. One of the threads in this book is the story of her learning to trust again and open her heart. It is the woods that she first lets in, and then the people associated with the woods. The story about learning to become a fully functioning human when reality has beaten you down, is a powerful one.

Going into the woods offers Wenn respite from the miseries of her daily life. What she finds there is enchantment. Most of this is the kind of enchantment any of us could find by getting out into greener places around us. There were obvious parallels to be drawn with Mythago Wood, but where Holdstock’s vision tells us the magic is largely unavailable, Nils Visser does the opposite. He invites us to see our surroundings in these terms, too. These novels are an invitation to magic, and to personal re-enchantment.

The story itself weaves folklore and history together around a series of locations. There’s a fair smattering of radical politics, and a fair amount of paganism, too. The story places human narratives in a landscape, and does so to powerful effect. The tale itself is full of magical possibility, but it’s also startling, sometimes devastating, haunting and full of surprises. If you enjoy the kinds of things I blog about, these books are for you and I think you’ll find much to love in them.

This is a story about how important it is to have stories about your landscape. It is through stories that we stop seeing places as so much scenery and start to have a more involved relationship with them. Those can be mythic and folkloric stories, they can be historical, and they can be personal. They can also be the stories we imagine of what would happen somewhere like this.  The process of learning and creating stories, and storying yourself into a landscape is a powerful one, beautifully illustrated in this novel.

I loved these books so very much. I heartily recommend them.

You can find Nils’s work on Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nils-Nisse-Visser/e/B00OK5RMSY


The Enchanted Life – a review

Sharon Blackie’s The Enchanted Life is a non-fiction book about enchantment and re-enchantment. It’s written for people who are suspicious that there are fundamental things wrong with life that they need to fix. The book offers stories, the author’s experiences and useful exercises to help you recognise your disenchantment and do something about it. It includes a solid analysis of how we collectively got into this mess in the first place – the beliefs, values and philosophy that brought us here – and how to rethink that.

It’s a very readable book, it ambles round subjects with the leisurely grace of a wild river and it has a lot to offer by way of insight and inspiration. I think it would be a good book for anyone just starting out on the Druid path as well as for anyone feeling the first yearnings for re-enchantment in their life. For the person a bit further along this road, it offers affirmation, and ideas and may well prove useful.

Most of the time, the assumed reader seems to be middle aged, middle class and winning at life by conventional standards – they’ve got the house, the job, the busy life, the generally accepted signs of success. Many of the people whose work the author draws on seem to fall into this category. They have it all, and then they take a massive risk and jump into another, more authentic, simpler and happier way of being. There’s not much here about how you go the other way – from the pressures and miseries of abject poverty and insecurity towards this more liberated way of life. How do you do it if you don’t have personal resources, or skills? Going self employed calls for a massive skill set, you have to do all the things a company does – the legal and financial obligations, the marketing and building a client base as well as doing the work. It’s not, I think, something everyone could do.

There’s also an underlying assumption here that you are an able bodied person who can walk every day, and sit outside every day. Now, as disability goes, I’m at the not so afflicted end, and I cannot go for a walk every day, and sitting outside in cold weather would cause me considerable harm. I’d like to see re-enchantment work that doesn’t assume an able body.

Sharon Blackie has a lot to say about the rise of stress, depression and anxiety in our culture and the relationship between that and our working lives. I’m very glad to see this getting properly explored and discussed. However, much of the book focuses on solitary, personal re-enchantment, and while that’s a good place to start, I wanted her to go further. I wanted more about how we enable re-enchantment in each other, how we build communities of mutual support. I think one of the big problems in our culture is that we make problems personal that should be seen as collective. How disability and mental health impact on us are fine cases in point.

What can I do, as a person who has broken out to a fair degree, to help someone who is stuck in the consumerist machine still? What can I do to support the people who can’t easily get out and connect with nature? How can I be part of the solution for other people, not just myself?

My guess is that the cover and title will appeal to readers who are already exploring this path. Folk who are reading Robert Macfarlane, and slow movement books, people interested in the Transition movement, permaculture, people who are already looking at sustainable and low stress lifestyles. Probably the people who most need to read this book are actually the ones who don’t yet consciously know they are in trouble. So, here’s my suggestion. If you are the sort of person to be automatically attracted to this book, buy it, read it, figure out who you know who would most benefit from it, and press a copy into their hands.

More about the book here – http://sharonblackie.net/the-enchanted-life/


Words of Re-enchantment

Anthony Nanson’s ‘Words of re-enchantment’ is a collection of essays which its subtitle labels as storytelling, myth and ecological desire. I’d go a lot further than this, because it’s a relevant book for anyone wanting to live in creative and sustainable ways. And really, that should be all of us.

Anthony is himself a writer of short stories, a story teller, and he has a novel to his name (Deep Time, which I reviewed here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/deep-time-and-the-wilderness/) It makes sense then that his focus is the written and spoken word, and the power of these things to affect real change.

This is a deeply philosophical book, asking what it means to be human, to be alive in this time and place, what it means to face up to the challenges and responsibilities of our moment in history. Given the subject matter, it’s a surprisingly upbeat and encouraging book. What I especially like about it, is that it offers meaningful ways forward to anyone who reads it.

You don’t have to stand up in front of an audience to be a storyteller. You don’t have to write novels. Most of us, in our every day speech and social media interactions, are in the business of telling each other stories. We tell stories about how life is, and what’s possible, what’s good and what isn’t. We all have the power to be more conscious story tellers in this context, telling our way towards better ways of living and being.

If you are on the bard path, I heartily recommend picking up a copy, this is essential reading that will inspire you and help you find purpose and direction. It’s also a finely written piece, worth reading in its own right, not just as an opportunity for personal development. And if you think you can’t make a difference, read this book.

More about Words of Re-enchantment here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/words_of_re-enchantment.html


Re-enchantment for Druids

In my blog on Seeking inspiration recently, I talked about how we lose that sense of wonder we had as children. We start to imagine the world as familiar and predictable, and begin a process of selectively not seeing all the ways in which this is not so. I have spent a while in that sort of conceptual space. It had a lot to do with feeling like I had to fit in with other people’s ideas of what a responsible adult might look like, and it was also a reaction against experiencing people whose reality was highly dysfunctional. It is possible to hold a sense of magical reality whilst being able to cope with the ‘normal’ reality the majority of people at least appear to inhabit.

Re-enchantment does not mean moving away from the world as is, into some fantasy in which you are a fairy princess, or a dragon. It is not escapism. Re-enchantment is about forging a deeper and more spiritual relationship with the world, as it is. Not taking anything for granted is an essential first step here.

If we deliberately narrow our experience – from bed, to car, to work, and home to television with very little else in the mix, we do not allow ourselves opportunity to experience something unfamiliar, and we reinforce a mundane impression of the world. Seeking out opportunities to be surprised isn’t that difficult. Going somewhere new, talking to a stranger, reading more widely, and most importantly, going outside and getting some direct, first-hand experience of the natural world. Life is amazing, from the miraculous fuzzy ducklings of spring, through to the intensity of summer blossom, the vivid colours of autumn and the pristine shock of snow. Each day offers us weather, sky, a precise moment in the seasonal cycle, and scope for seeing a thousand things we have never noticed before. There is wonder in the small detail. The blue flash of a kingfisher’s startling wings. The sheer beauty of a dawn chorus. The smell of the air, after rain.

It’s easy to go through life with a head full of what we just did, what we’re about to do, what we wish we were doing, what were worried about and all the mental clutter that makes it hard to live now. It is possible to be thinking about your life without being so inward looking that you entirely miss the external reality. The trick is to not treat most of external reality like some kind of wallpaper. It’s not a backdrop for the film plot of your life, it needs taking seriously. Noticing, or not noticing, is a habit of thought. It just takes practice.

The next step is to feel. For some reason, the last I don’t know how long… few hundreds of years? We’ve been collectively wary of emotion, seeing it as the opposite of good thinking, the enemy of rationality, and at odds with civilization. Emotion is intrinsic to being human. You can’t feel a sense of enchantment if you are not willing to feel. It may not seem ‘grown up’ to be cooing over lambs, or to cry over a dead swan, but the wrong there lies with our culture, not with the emotional response. Being willing to be moved to tears by beauty, or to be filled with ecstatic laughter over the pure joy of something, requires a letting go, an opening up. People may look at you funny. You may seem crazy to others. You may seem crazy to yourself. It is a process.

From here, the magic inherent in the everyday world starts to open up. Life feels more vivid, more real, and more immediate. The small things become relevant and important. A day can become a good day for hearing a bird sing, or because there was a rainbow. The previous priorities and obsessions of an entirely fabricated, human-centric awareness, change. You stop expecting to be able to buy happiness and start knowing where to find it. You pause in delight over the way in which the water is catching the light. You smile because this morning you saw a fox, and that was a beautiful moment. You notice how the air smells and how the ground feels beneath your feet. And then, because these things start to matter to you, and you are paying attention to them, you become more aware of what they do, how they interact, the individuality of them, and the connectedness. Where before there was barely regarded scenery, now there is spirit, and relationship.

It’s a process with no end point. There is always more to see, further to go, more to recognise, to understand, to engage with. I think a big part of druidry is this quest for relationship, but there’s not a vast amount of information out there about how to do it. You certainly don’t need the right robes, or necessarily even the right rituals. I’m going to finish with a quick plug for Druidry and Meditation, because I’ve explored a lot of ways of seeking this awareness shift in that book, so if you want to explore further and could use a few more tools, it may help.