Tag Archives: restorative

Sacred Actions – a review

Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Sustainable Practices (Paperback)

Dana O’Driscoll’s Sacred Actions is a rare example of a book I think everyone should read. It’s written for Pagans and Druids, but I think there are lot of people who simply care about the natural world who would also benefit greatly from this book.

This is a book about how to embed not just sustainable practices in your spiritual and daily life, but also how to be restorative. It’s not enough to be sustainable. The idea of being regenerative is exciting, and the book as a whole has a hopeful, encouraging tone and is a good antidote to despair and distress.

You could take this as a manual for a year long project, or you could just read it all and pick the bits that work for you – there’s plenty of inspiration and flexibility here. Author Dana is a longstanding Druid, with a wide range of life experiences. The result is a beautifully written book that is pragmatic, realistic and recognises the breadth and limitations you might be facing. It is as applicable for urban Pagans in small spaces as it is for those who can run off and start an organic homestead, and all places in between. There’s attention to issues of wealth and privilege, and this is an excellent piece of writing for not excluding anyone or assuming much about available resources.

The book follows the wheel of the year, and the 8 festivals familiar to most modern Pagans. You could draw on this material to enrich your own seasonal celebrations, there would be no difficulty setting it alongside a different set of celebrations, either. If celebrating the festivals isn’t part of how you do your Paganism, that will also be fine, you can make this entirely about action without any need for ritual.

Each festival explores an area of thinking and action and looks at how to bring this into your daily life, and spiritual life. It’s a book that is very much about embedding the spiritual in the everyday, and increasing earth awareness and feelings of interconnectedness.

If you’ve been a deliberate eco-Pagan for some time, you might find some of the content familiar. However, this is a book with so many ideas in it, that the odds are good of finding new things to bring into your life. There are original rituals and triads here, and content for contemplation and meditation that will enrich any Druidic practice. I really like the emphasis on meditation as an action, and using meditation to embed ideas, reflect on relationships and deepen understanding. These are the most valuable meditation pointers I’ve seen in a very long time.

The author writes from her own experience, which means that the book has most to offer a Pagan in similar circumstances – someone living in North America. If that’s not your situation, there is still a great deal to gain from this book, you’re just going to have to do extra work to find out about relevant plants and groups where you live, for example. As a UK dwelling reader I enjoyed the decision to make the content specific – in many ways, specific details provide a better map for those of us outside the area of interest, than vague content that doesn’t really give anything precise to anyone.

If you need inspiring and uplifting right now, this book is for you. If you need help finding out how to live a life that is regenerative, and more than sustainable, this book is for you. If you are even slightly interested in earth based spirituality, this book is for you. I cannot recommend it enough. It’s made me realise a lot about what is most important to me in terms of Druidry – connection, care, community, responsibility, action, living our values, and uplifting each other so that we can all do better.

More about the book here – Waterstones


Thoughts on world building

The kind of world you imagine shapes the kind of story you can tell. This is an important consideration when writing, but it’s also true in everyday life. The way we imagine the world affects the kinds of stories we can tell, and the kinds of lives we can lead. The person who believes that this world is grim, vicious and that people are awful will make a very different story of their life from the person who believes in cooperation and kindness. The fiction we create contributes to how the people who encounter it imagine the real world to be. This is why I want to work in hopeful genres, not dystopian ones.

When Dr Abbey first started drawing pieces for our joint project, I saw deserts, ruins, haunted people, and a lot that was troubled. This was our shared starting point. It struck me that it would be an interesting thing to write a story in the aftermath of disaster, where people are trying to rebuild. It’s the rebuilding that I’m interested in, and the idea of what it means to be restorative. If we can imagine being restorative, it will be easier to achieve it.

A world in ruins could very easily be the setting for grim and dystopian fiction. This is a scenario where everyone is damaged in some way – bodily, emotionally or both. Everyone has seen horrors. Everyone has experienced the kinds of things that make it really hard to trust other people. However, there are people who have set their hearts on rebuilding and re-greening. The key characters will either be people who are already working on that, or people drawn into it.

It struck me that there are other implications to a traumatised society. Mostly the characters aren’t going to talk about it. Everyone knows that everyone else has seen terrible things. If you’re going to work with people, it may be better not to know what terrible things they did in the past, and just go with whatever they are doing now. If you’re trying to atone for what you did, it may be better not to have to speak of it. How do we forgive each other? How do we forgive ourselves? These may be important and relevant questions to ask as countries around the world seem ever more divided and people become polarised. How can we be kind, when there has been only cruelty?

So, I won’t be telling the stories about the terrible things that happened. I will allude to them, but no more. The question will be how to move past those wounds and conflicts, to make something better. How to build hope when it is almost impossible to imagine anything good. How to rebuild trust, and faith in humanity.


Cover story – Druidry and the Future

The cover for Druidry and the Future was a collaboration between myself and my husband, Tom Brown. It comes out of ongoing conversations we’ve been having around hope punk, and regenerative, generous, restorative human action.

We’ve both got to the point of feeling that really, trying to reduce harm isn’t enough. The scale of harm done by humans is such that we urgently need to become forces for regeneration. We also both feel strongly that people need to see themselves as beings who can live generously and restoratively, that we do not have to despair over our species because we can, and will, do better.

Hope punk is a concept that has arisen online as an antidote to grimdark fiction. This is something we’re also invested in – not that I’m averse to dark fantasy, I love Mark Lawrence’s work in this area, but it is not enough to be grim and dark. We also need visions of where we might be going. If all we tell ourselves are stories about how horrible things will be, we have nothing to work towards. I like writing gothic fiction myself, I am an occasional horror reader. For me, these genres suit me best when they also provide contrast. The good people are able to do can shine out more clearly against a grim backdrop. Also, I want to get away from the light/dark language here – an issue I’ll be coming back to.

So, I sat down at a drink and draw a while ago and tried to imagine what restorative urban Druidry might look like. I wanted to give a sense of Druidry being what you do where you are, and that as most of us live in towns and cities, we need to reflect that. If Druidry can only be ‘away’ in remote and beautiful spots that becomes a barrier to regenerative living.

Tom took my original sketch and drew it up for me – I’m not terribly good at perspective or for that matter, realism. I did the colouring because once the lines are down, I can get my head around this. Tom is such a goth that colour worries him…

 

You can buy the book via Amazon, or leave a comment if you’d like to buy a hard copy directly from me https://www.amazon.co.uk/Druidry-Future-Nimue-Brown-ebook/dp/B07WJX6CYH 


Managed Woodland

When we think about ‘nature’ it is so often with the idea that ‘nature’ means not touched by humans. If you want nature, you leave things alone to take their natural course. In the case of a wood, leaving it alone often means you get a lot of brambles and if you don’t know what a wood can do, that might look persuasively natural.

Here in the UK, we’re missing our large wild mammals and have been for some time. Our woods have evolved with humans as the large wild mammals in chief. A managed wood will often have far more biodiversity than a wood that has been left to its own devices. Particularly if there’s a history of human involvement. If you look at the history of most woods in the UK, you’ll find human involvement over the last few thousand years.

There is a Woodland Trust wood not far from where I live, and I’ve walked through it a couple of times a year for some years. When I was first walking here, work was being done to clear areas, coppicing trees and building up dead hedges of the cut material. A dead hedge of twigs provides homes for insects, and for pretty much anything else that lives in a wood. Over the last few years, I’ve been able to watch how the coppiced areas have developed. It is noticeable this year that this is where the most woodland spring flowers are growing. Beautiful carpets of wood anemones in particular. I also noticed an intensity of bird song around the coppiced patches, and vibrant new growth on the trees coming up into the space.

If human intervention means tidying up nature and making it into a garden or a park, then of course a wood won’t thrive. However, when people look after woods for the wellbeing of the wood, with an underlying and evidenced understanding of how that might work, the results are impressive. If we get our interventions right, then human activity can increase the health of a woodland and increase the diversity of life within it.

Human intervention need not be a bad thing. We do not have to see ourselves as a life form that can only harm the living world. We can also support the living things around us. We can nurture life, and we can act in ways that are restorative and regenerative.