Tag Archives: spiritual experience

Away with the fairies

There’s a hide not far from the canal – private land being developed as a mini nature reserve, with tree planting and a small pond. We regularly see badgers, foxes, rabbits, buzzards and garden birds there, having permission to visit as we please! The badgers are the main attraction, because they generally aren’t easy to spot other places. However, the hide owners tend to put down peanuts to attract them. Last night, there were no nuts. A lone badger of the dozen or so from the set came round to check, and that was the end of the matter. Still, seeing one badger is a joy, and we also had an encounter with a huge, unidentified moth.

We were just getting up to leave when Tom spotted lights amongst the trees. We all saw them – a cluster of small lights that could only be seen from one angle, and that all went off at once. It was nearly dark by then. The nature area does not adjoin any gardens, ruling out fairy lights, solar lights, anything gardenish – there’s a thick hedge and a grass walkway and another hedge between what we could see and the nearest garden.

There were glow bugs in the area, but we haven’t seen any in weeks now. There is a guy who studies moths, we pondered moth traps. Much work went in to looking for a perfectly rational explanation for what all three of us had seen. Increasingly aware that none of us were entirely at ease with the rational explanations, I eventually got round to saying ‘could have been fairies.’

It’s an interesting one for me. I’m a druid and a pagan, I believe in the idea of magic and otherworldliness, but at the same time I pride myself on being a rationally minded creature, willing to consider the evidence as dispassionately as I can. I’ll always look for the banal explanation first, rather than seeing everything in terms of gods, hobgoblins, aliens, Atlanteans etc etc. But there are times when the sense of wonder, the feeling of encountering something numinous is too strong for the rational explanation.

The last time this happened to me I was in Portland with Tom, and we both saw a tiny little whirlwind spinning leaves around. It was so small, so localised, the rest of the air so still that whatever the logical explanation might have been, the sense of seeing something otherworldly was powerful indeed.

Often it’s about the language we use. Thunder and earthquakes have perfectly sensible explanations, we know what they are, and yet at the same time the power of them, and other regular, natural and universally recognised phenomena is breathtaking. Spirit and science do not need to be at odds here. It may be tempting to call things we don’t understand ‘magic’ but there’s no reason not to recognise the known as magical, too. That first rainfall after days of dry heat. A full moon haloed by mist. There’s no reason for the experience of magic to be irrational.

We saw something last night. We don’t know what it was. Any speculation is just that, no version any more evidenced than any other, despite our best efforts. Of course I want to know what I saw, but for me, that knowledge would in no way reduce the feeling of wonder, awe and delight that the moment inspired.

Me and Meditation

Having done a brief history of my druid experiences, I thought I should tackle how meditation has become a part of my life. This one turns out to be trickier, because I can’t remember when I started. Somewhere along the way of my parent’s dabbling in paganism I picked up the gist of what pathworkings are, and a few ideas about meditation. There were no meditation books in my childhood – not that I read. There were parental references to astral projection and other such concepts.
By the time I encountered my first formal teaching at 18, I’d been a self taught meditater for years. I went to a couple of workshops and had some formal teaching through Tai Chi study then, which added to what I’d figured out for myself. I also explored the parallel path of hypnosis, experimenting on my friends as a teen. This process enabled me to learn the ‘voice’ that is so essential for leading others into deep trance. The calm authority, the way of directing. It came easily to me, as did the trance work. I explored sleep deprivation, dancing and drumming as a teen as well, playing with altered states of consciousness whilst steering clear of the drugs. I figured, if you could do it legally and for free by manipulating your own brain chemistry, why pay to do something illegal that could get you into trouble?

There’s always been a very fine line for me between meditation, ritual and magic. Setting out to do one tends to automatically bring in the other two. I use the same voice for rituals that I use for guiding meditations, I have that same consciousness shift in mind. On a good day, my creative work functions in exactly the same way as well, taking me into other levels of awareness.

I was listening to a Radio 4 program about spiritual experience a few weeks back. In western tradition, a spiritual experience is a one-off thing that happens to you. It may well change you, but it is finite. Apparently in Hindu tradition a spiritual experience is a process, a permanent shift to a new level of consciousness that remains part of your being thereafter. I prefer this idea, and in many ways it fits with what I’ve been pushing toward all along. For years now I’ve been aiming to live my life in the way that I meditate, with the same heightened awareness of both myself and all there is around me. Pushing for more involved consciousness. Every push down this path creates a period when it’s all a bit much – often those periods are short. Sometimes I have to dance back and forth a bit with a shift, and usually its focused on one small area of my life – how I speak, or move, or think about other people, or think about wildlife… I nudge a little further along in the direction I’m after.

There’s no endpoint in mind. No time at which I will decide I’ve done all I can with meditation and it’s time to try a new thing. Rather, meditation, like druidry, has become intrinsic to daily life. I take out short periods to do it deliberately, but my aim is always to have it more fully integrated into everything. Each breath a meditation, each step a part of my druid dance. And both, very much part of each other. Breath and dance, druidry and meditation.