Tag Archives: summer

Summer trees and Druid wanderings

Sometimes the great British summer produces hot days. I’m one of the many people whose body is invariably startled by this. I find in hot weather that being under trees is really the only way of being comfortably outside in the daytime.

Walk through woodland on a scorching hot day, and you’ll be in balmy conditions with a little dampness in the atmosphere and pretty much no risk of sunburn. The bright light that can leave you squinting, and for the long term, more at risk of cataracts doesn’t reach through. Intense sunlight filtered through leaves becomes something gentle, joyful and habitable.

I can’t walk in direct sunlight for any significant time without a hat, and even with a hat, the risk of headaches and queasiness remains high. In woods, I can be out all day in high summer and this just isn’t a problem. I don’t dehydrate as quickly, I don’t feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

In the absence of trees to wander beneath, the shade of a tree in park or garden is always a blessed relief in the height of summer.

There are plenty of reasons to connect the idea of ancient Druidry with the idea of tree lore and tree wisdom. From the Roman reports of Druids meeting in sacred groves to possible etymologies relating the word Druid to names for oak, I am inclined to think of Druids as tree people. The simplest and most powerful tree lore for high summer is that to experience the sun filtered through leaves is kinder and safer than to be under its direct glare.

Many spiritual paths are keen to use light as a metaphor for goodness – ‘enlightenment’ when you think about it, is a word with light in it. At the same time we tend to associate darkness with evil, and these habits of thought are deeply ingrained in our culture. Trees do not offer us light, but gentle and friendly shade, with patterns of shifting light and darkness. Too much light will hurt you, blind you and burn you. Our bodies do not thrive when overexposed to sunlight. We benefit from places of ambiguous light, softer light, and cool shadow.



Druid Camp from the depths of winter

As I write this, I feel a long way away from the summer fields of the Forest of Dean, and Mark Graham’s Druid camp. It’s an August event, and here we are, shivering in January. No going barefoot in this weather, no exposing skin to sun, no grain ripening in the fields. It’s less than a week – under 2% of a year, but it’s become over the last three years something of a key part of my summer.

Druid Camp is a community space, which means I get to spend time with a bunch of people I really like, and seldom see. Being a community space, there are inevitably other people I don’t get on with as well, and about whom I feel anxious. I’m not the most socially confident life form, and generally avoid people who rub me up the wrong way. The field is big enough, and there’s always enough going on that there’s no obligation to be in close proximity to anyone else. Which is as well. It takes a lot to make me fall out with a person butI’m not all peace and love and light, by any stretch of the imagination.

In more involved, more intense spaces, relationships can be forged that endure. There’s room at camp, and time, and situations that encourage openness, emotional intimacy, even physical closeness. As a person who really struggles around all things physical, that’s always a big challenge for me. Over the last three years, there have been people who knew what was going on with me and have done all manner of things to help me move forward, to be more confident. So now I feel secure enough to use the showers, I can get in the sauna, and I’m much better at hugging people. And at not hugging people and feeling able to say when I’m too sore or otherwise out of sorts.

In workshops, in ritual, in dance spaces… people find opportunities to test themselves, to take risks, and to encounter other people doing the same. It can be really exposing. Encountering another person in this way, you rapidly learn things about whether you want to move closer, or step back. As someone who tends to feel obliged to appease, it’s been an important experience for me, to realise that I don’t have to suit everyone. I don’t have to be totally acceptable to all comers in all ways. I can be an awkward misfit in some contexts, and still have a place.

January, for me, is a most obvious time to be thinking about Druid Camp. I’m waiting for Mark to announce the speakers and music list so that I can run around and tell people. I know some of what’s in the offing, and am already excited. Tickets are already on sale, because I’m not the only person who gets to January and wants to make plans for the coming year. With the way events work, it’s important to be doing that. I will be at the South West Pagan Federation conference in April, I’ll be at Festival at the Edge in July, and at Conscious Connection Camp, I’ll be at Asylum – the huge Steampunk event in Lincoln on the August Bank Holiday weekend. And of course I’ll be at Druid Camp, and nearer the time I’ll figure out what I’ll be contributing. I’m not a main speaker, so there’s more time to pin that down.

In the meantime, if you’re keen to get things moving, tickets, as previously mentioned, are already on sale… http://www.druidcamp.org.uk/