Earth Spirits, fact or fiction?

Posted in druid, paganism, shamanism, spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2012 by cerrilee

For some reason I have been thinking lately of a video I saw a few years ago on You tube called the ‘Wild Horses of Newbury’ and as often happens with these things, a magical synchronicity happened and someone posted it up on Facebook yesterday. For those of you who have not seen this piece of footage it is a recording of  something that happened at the Newbury bypass protests some years ago as some wonderful old Oaks were being felled to make way for yet another road.

As the Oaks were being cut and felled by the chainsaws in front of  the protesters, an army of  police on horses and yellow jacketed “security”,  in dark sunglasses many of them, hired for the “safety” of all, a pair of dark horses came running out of the fields apparently from no where. They ran to the trees being felled, in and through all of the crowds of yellow jackets they ran. The horses were obviously distressed, running backwards and forwards around the scene to the surprise and bewilderment of the officials. Then one of the horses went up to the row of police horses and seemed to speak to one in particular, it pressed it’s face onto the police horse and they seemed to be speaking to each other, the policeman sat stunned on the back of his horse and no one was sure what to do. After a while the horses left going back to where ever they had come, leaving the protesters sure that the spirits of the trees and the land had spoken to all present that day. Even as I write this now I find it hard to fight back the emotion from watching this clip of film again. I was not at the road protest but I know  the sense of loss stays with many after all this time. I strongly recommend everyone to watch it, especially any of those who find it hard to see beyond the atheistic fog that hangs over paganism these days.

For me the above encounter serves to confirm the ideas I have always believed, that all things are connected and that all life has the ability to communicate across species, gender and culture, if we only have the ears to listen and the eyes to see. It was just like the bit in the movie Avatar when the whole of life gathers together in one final showdown with the humans to fight back their destruction, I wonder if the director had seen the Newbury horses on YouTube?

The Horse has been a symbol of Sovereignty for thousands of years. Kings regularly symbolically married a horse as part of his coronation ceremony. The great White Horse carved into the chalk hill at Uffington in Wiltshire attests to their influence on our forebears and even today many cultures have them as a powerful part of their shamanic traditions. Then there is the Oak, a symbol of strength and majesty, it has been revered as the Druids tree for so many years. The great oaks of our lands have been a bridge between the upper, middle and lower worlds for millennia, a place to gather for communities for problems to be solved, celebrations to enjoy and names to be carved to declare undying love and, Oh irony of ironies, they have been a symbol of protection in the form of house frames, doors and ships. So is it any wonder, as the horses ran through the dreadful scene of destruction, that all watching felt that the spirits of nature were trying to tell us all to look at what we do, that something truly otherworldly was going on in those moments.

Watching programs like the three part BBC series ‘How to Grow a Planet’ also helps – again science proving everything I have always felt, you will never look at plants the same way after that program! Plants communicate with each other sending danger signals to warn of predators, their breathing process is responsible for the air we breath, everything has sentience even the blades of grass under your feet.

Many years ago these ideas became something of a mini crisis, I became very freaked out even cutting up carrots after watching a ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (Roald Dahl  stories on TV), where a man invents a machine that could hear plants. He set it up next to an Oak and then hit the tree with an axe, the machine picked up the scream, he was also by a field of wheat being cut…..well I tell you I was a total vegetarian at the time and began to have real problems eating anything at all, it is all alive and breathing! Obviously I have calmed down a bit since and now needless to say try to honour everything I eat. I think that what this may be teaching me is that I have, at times, watched too much TV!

But seriously, if a person should ever need reminding or indeed the understanding that everything that lives, no matter what form it may take, is full of soulful, sentient energy, watching the Horses of Newbury will do it every time.

blessed be

The Quest for Druidry via Arthur, Ceridwen and other ancients myths.

Posted in Arthur, Ceridwen, cerri lee, druid, druidism, druidry, pagan, spirituality, wicca, witchcraft with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2012 by cerrilee

I am a self confessed modern day druid, many people over the years try to tell me and others like me,  that I can not be a druid as I do not know what they did, there is no book of rules to follow so how do I know that I am doing is authentic enough to be called druidry?…etc.etc..

Well you know its true I don’t know for sure what they did, we have the writings of the Romans and Greeks which are interesting in their way and there is the wealth of archeology that continues to give us clues and food for the imagination.  I greedily gobble all this information up as it all helps to inform me of this islands bygone ages, giving me a connection to the land and my forebears. It is pretty safe to assume that the stone circles, ritual sites, earth works etc. around the islands that make up Great Britain and Ireland have had great significance over thousands of years to our ancient forbears and for many in the modern era they continue to hold a deep and abiding energy to draw on.

But what we really have are our stories, poems, our ancient myths and legends – and there are more than you would think that have survived, tucked away within apparently Christian texts. But ladies and gentlemen, when you know that starting a piece of writing with a dedication to Christ/God and finishing it with the same meant whatever was contained therein, could not be changed, then you can read apparently contradictory poems such as the Spoils of Annwn in a very different light. It is true that often you feel the need to be a language scholar in Old English, Middle Welsh or other ancient tongues to glean the information as it is hard to rely on translations and anyway how can we truly know the subtleties and nuances without the living language to draw upon?

But in spite of all that, the thing I find most extraordinary is that our fabulous, magical and moving tales of Arthur, Ceridwen, Merlin and many, many others are not taught in our schools, apart from the odd rendition of Grendel, which I have seen interpreted by youngsters who absolutely loved turning it into a wonderful play, these are our direct line back to all our peoples’ ancient soul. I know that there is the endless argument about where these tales belong, who claims ownership of them, where Arthur and Merlin actually lived etc, but that is all irrelevant in the end as it is the stories themselves that continue to speak to all who have an ear to listen and they don’t seem to care what part of the Isle of the Mighty you where born on!

Any way this was not supposed to be a rant on ownership of the tales, more I was thinking about my own journey with the myths over these many years and how I have become more comfortable to call myself a Druid in this day and age with their help. This year my intention is to explore on a deeper esoteric level specifically the Arthurian related stories, some of which I am very familiar with, some not so. Although reading the various interpretations of the stories and drawing conclusions on an intellectual level is obviously a large part of the work, it is not the main thrust of this exploration.

For me the joy of working with the stories is to find the eternal messages held within, to go beyond the words and dive deep into what they have to say on a spiritual level. Stories that have persisted for so long have gifts for every generation to feel and hear, profound truths that can open the doorways of perception,  revealing the secrets and mysteries held within, despite the passage of time and changing languages. This is how the ancients of all cultures have worked over the millennia, you honour the ancestors tales by the retelling, the reliving and enlivening, making them relevant to the audience, whilst retaining the spirit and content at the core.

So as a modern day Druid, how do you approach a journey of this kind? Well, at the risk of people reading this and thinking me a very odd sort, I will try to give you some idea of how I approach it. I decided to begin with connecting to the spirits and guides that thread through the myths, within ritual space, calling for a character from the stories to guide me for the duration of this journey. This first step took the form of a meditation held within a ritual space, which I can honestly say it was one of the most magical and profoundly moving journeys that I have experienced. I allowed the energy to guide my metaphorical feet and before I was even ready for it, I felt the energies building within the circle, the stories were impatient and their energy was palpable. I will not go into too much detail here, but it is enough to say I found myself standing before the Cauldron of Annwn, dark and pearl rimmed, kindled by the breath of the Nine maidens. Issuing from the cauldron was steam that curled and flowed around me and with full intent in my heart and mind I called for the myths to send a guide whilst I began to chant the Awen. As the first Awen began the energy rose and grew until it stopped being a sound and became an overwhelming feeling, a great sound beyond my own small voice, vibrating me to the very core of my being. The mists swirled and moved becoming images that built then faded, finally forming an indisputable presence, The Lady of the Lake.

There are times when no words will suffice and this is one of them, there was a sense of privilege to have Her in my circle, for me She is very real and what our journey holds I am not sure, but I have no doubt that I will be changed and moved in ways I cannot yet fathom. I believe that the Druids of the past would recognise my experience. I also know that whether you believe in my experience or put it all down to a vivid imagination, I am going to have an adventure that few would set out on. I will plumb the depths of these stories in a way that will be very personal but also hopefully, will shed light on some of the greater mysteries known by Druids from the past who listened to theses same tales.

 

Quantum theory, new jargon for an ancient understanding?

Posted in cerri lee, shamanism, spirituality with tags , , , , , , on January 17, 2012 by cerrilee

This week I watched a program called “What the bleep do we know?” it has poked my “need to chew this over” button. It is full of scientists, psychologists and doctors of this and that working in various fields, but it is basically a new age film about how we all make our own lives and its all down to Quantum physics, as you would imagine it sets one thinking.

On the whole I would not disagree with much of the content as it is based on the one piece of information that has been a consistent part of my belief system for many years, that is that there is nothing solid, everything is vibrating energy. This means that anything, absolutely anything is possible even probable and that everything is connected. But, and for me it is a big but, there was a basic premise threaded through the whole film that rankled with me, that is the idea that our lives are only created moment to moment by the thoughts that we, as individuals, put out into the energetic potential. So if you think bad thoughts it means bad things will happen, i.e. you get ill, you grow old, your life gets messed up….etc it is all down to your way of thinking, they even subtly imply that you could live forever if you get your thoughts right and never, ever have to have a bad thing happen to you, ever.

Now while to a large degree it is true that a good state of mind alters health, mental well being and how you attract things into your life, I don’t see how it  can be stated that the individual is unaffected by all of the other individuals (and for me the individuals include everything that exists from a blade of grass to the cosmos) doing the same thing you are, isn’t that just a bit silly? And the idea that you can go through life and not ever have to deal with anything negative, really?

Surely it is how you deal with the negatives in your life that help you to grow as a person and help make better more informed choices for yourself and the world in which you live? Have they understood cause and effect, the chaos theory…..butterflies and tornados etc… properly?  To imagine that the individual is autonomous, living in a unique and moment by moment existence that they alone create, yet all is connected is a conflicting message to me.

But enough ranting about new age theories mixed with science and a bit of omnipresent being to keep the majority happy, if I truly believe that anything and everything is possible…I have to concede they have a chance of being right somewhere too!

Anyhow the more I hear about quantum theory and many other scientific theories around at the moment, it seems to me that they are just giving a new jargon to what the ancients were saying all along.  For instance the Anglo Saxons had a belief structure that they called the ‘Wyrd’, which put in a very tiny nutshell, is the understanding that all things are connected, past, present and future  all affect each other. The individual is part of the whole and how they behave reflects not only in their own present environment, family and tribe, but also affects their descendants lives and luck. It is like a great multidimensional tapestry being woven from everyone and everything’s threads, each individual part affecting the whole pattern, adding to the diversity and texture. There are aspects of fate within the concept, but not so fixed that our thoughts, actions and intentions can not affect outcomes, therefore we must presume a need for personal responsibility for said intentions, thoughts and actions.

If we look around the ancient texts we can find this is a familiar concept, the multidimensional universe was widely understood,  agreed on and happily accepted in various forms pan-culturally. This all makes perfect sense to me and if I have to fall into any line of  thinking it best suits my experience of the human existence so far, so Mr scientist nothing new to see here move along, next theory to prove the ancients correct again please!

I think that “The Bard’  (for all you ancient Britain scholars out there I mean Shakespeare not Taliesin this time) penned the most appropriate lines for this apparent world that we live in and I take leave to quote him as a finish to my odd and rambling rant……

Prospero:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Heritage, Spirituality and the Land

Posted in art, cerri lee, damh the bard, paganism, spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2012 by cerrilee

I am about to embark on two new pieces of art this month, one of which is for the Spirit of Albion film that will be coming out in May, which will be hopefully a groovy montage of God and Goddess faces (obviously the actors playing the said Gods and Goddesses in the film) along with appropriate symbolism. The other is  a little more complicated in idea as it is for the cover of a CD to be recorded in Australia by my partner Damh the Bard, specifically for a group of sponsor’s who have generously contributed to our next visit in May, all of this being organised by the amazing band members of  Spiral Dance.

The reason that the second piece will be more complicated is purely from my own point of view, it should in fact, be a simple piece considering it’s purpose (the majority of my friends will know that this is a pretty usual state of affairs with me though). Let me explain, the first time Damh and I went to Australia I was interested to see how Pagan people, with a relatively recent European heritage, worked with the land and how it shaped their spirituality. How different was the language of the land from Britain, Ireland or mainland Europe or any other continent who’s inhabitants moved there to find a different life for themselves? How did the Southern Hemisphere feel when working ritual? Seeing the Sun and Moon wax and wane across the sky in a mirrored fashion, from my point of view, was quite disconcerting and finding any sense of direction for me almost went away completely, generally I had quiet a good sense of direction.

One thing was very clear to me from that first and our subsequent visit was, that the land was undoubtedly in charge, without malice or agenda but definitely in charge. I know that seems an obvious thing to say, but coming from Britain where the land has practically no say in how it is dealt with, I felt the land in Australia has an enormous presence and it was both wonderful and awe inspiring. I wondered if that feeling could possibly have been a small inkling into how our ancient forebears felt about our lands before the ending of nomadic lives and the coming of farming in Europe.

So how then do you communicate with such an entity? The indigenous peoples have their bond by blood and bone, they are part of the land and it is part of them over many thousands of years, their stories, songs and artwork speak of their Dreamtime, their ancient and not so ancient ancestors, the shape of the land that sustained them and how it speaks to them.

But what of the Pagan people of European heritage I have met on the two journeys so far?  Those Pagan people (I can not speak about non-pagans as I didn’t really meet many) who were born there or have recently moved there feel passionate and connected with the land and all it is, they fight to protect its uniqueness from incoming plants and animals that upset the natural balance and they honour the indigenous peoples and their territories at every Pagan gathering. But they still have a wealth of heritage of their own blood and bone built over thousands of years that needs to be honoured also. How do you blend the two seemingly opposite lands, the stellar mirroring and cultures?

In truth they blend quiet successfully and in many diverse ways, for instance working with an ancient idea of tree lore such as the Ogham and finding the correlation within the local trees takes time but can be easily be done and is being done. The animals seem very alien at first and finding any similarity for a  newcomer like myself foxed me. But then I stopped and watch the kangaroos bouncing across the bush, shy and retiring if we got too close and they strongly reminded me of deer in the woodland. Finding a way to relate the European Pagan wheel of the year also can seem at odds with the Southern hemisphere, but again on closer inspection it seemed to me that the effects of  Summer in Australia are pretty similar to winter in Britain. The land, grasses and greens die down in the heat and become brown and crisp looking, whereas in the Winter everything picks up, it is the mirror effect again and maybe that is the root I have need to take with this piece of artwork. It is a case of learning to look in the mirror and see the true reflections.

The magic and wonder of a mirror image and the echos of history that are reflected back through the glass of time……

A new cycle begins

Posted in art, pagan, paganism, spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2011 by cerrilee

So for the northern hemisphere the Sun has begun the waxing cycle and we have celebrated the event in Britain our amazingly multi cultural island, with the many and varied religious rituals and rites associated with this time of year, not to mention enough food and drink to make Bacchus blush. Now we move toward the calendrical new year with another long held tradition, the ritual writing of our “new years resolutions”. How many of us have made list of these over the years? Some we have kept and many broken, a thousand and one good intentions and commitments to ourselves both large and small.

As with many other people my mind has been working that way for the past few weeks, to compound this energetic there has been much build up toward the next Winter Solstice 2012 as a seminal point of change for the world, this is of course based on the ending of the Mayan calendar at that point. Though much of the hype around this event has been exaggerated and embellished with all kinds of dreadful omens and prophesies, it was/is, never the less considered a major point in our celestial cycle and possibly even our spiritual/emotional cycle also. With all that weighty stuff hanging in the air and ready to unfold throughout the year, it feels particularly poignant to think of life, love and spiritual reviews and what we might all do if this coming year really does turn out to be a year of immense import, are we prepared for anything?

For me the repeated resolutions have to be to a deeper commitment to my personal spiritual practise such as meditation, as it is one of the hardest things to commit to myself to on a daily basis, it is always easier to do the practical things first and things for others before making that commitment to oneself. So my “new years resolution” list is something like this….meditate more often, take time to read, keep a diary and do a piece of art every day, oh and of course keep an eye on the news for impending epic doom.

But seriously I do truly feel we could be poised on the crest of a powerful wave that has the potential to take us all on a fast ride into a brighter future. Consciousness is slowly but surely being raised on many levels with education and information available through so many of our media systems.  We have seen over this past year that big businesses, governments and other money driven enterprises have been harried and pushed to change the way they do things as people across the globe have started to jump down their throats and bring them to task. Technology has the power to work for the good of the environment and the people as it becomes more accessible to all, it is no longer a domain of a privileged elite. It is shrinking the world, breaking down barriers, misconceptions and bringing a global consciousness into being, as things like mobile phones become an eye into, and a communication out of, previously closed worlds.

In my idealistic vision of a brave new world we will find that no matter what colour, creed or religion we have more in common than we have differences, and if we can just let go of the outmoded idea that we should all follow one credo, then we can build something that brings people together without falling into the trap of needing everyone to be the same. The wave of energy beneath us requires us to keep our emotional, intellectual, spiritual balance, and focus in order to read the signs and make the best use of it. If we can and do this together we can ride this wave safely right onto the shores of a brave new world.

Idealistic I know, but it gets me up in the morning and with these grand visions in my head it may help me focus on the small things I can change everyday….like not having another chocolate out that box and having an apple instead, drawing it before I eat it and meditating on the good it is doing me!

Leonardo Da Vinci, Armin Mersmann and others

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 16, 2011 by cerrilee

It will be obvious to anyone who read my last post that the idea of going back to the root source of what inspires me is occupying my mind greatly. I feel that there is a need every so often to reexamine what we do and why we do it and I am truly in that mode at this moment in time. 

I have again been watching a number of programs over the past weeks about Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo is and always has been since I can remember, my total hero, if I were that way inclined I would “model” (NLP terminology) myself on him and all his methods, though not the dissecting thing obviously, luckily he and many others have already been there and done that for me, phew! He was/is the ultimate rebel, visionary, a naturalist to put even Ray Mears to shame and a thinker of such profound intelligence and spirituality that few have surpassed him in my view….He sits along side the small hand full of human minds that seem to been open to comprehend the universal mysteries and yet somehow he remained open to and able to convey the spiritual aspects of it all in his work.

I digress….The first of these programs was about the rediscovery of a lost work of his, a jaw droppingly stunning and utterly moving painting of the face of Christ (which to my complete joy I will be going to see in February)…..and the most recent being the repeat of a dramatised series on the BBC. Added to this I saw a post on yesterday Facebook about another artist I really admire, Armin Mersmann who’s work is a good deal in one of favourite mediums Graphite and is also jaw droppingly stunning. What both of these genius artists seem to be telling me at the moment is, before all else comes observation and I don’t just mean looking with the eyes.

What they seem to be able to convey goes beyond what can be seen on the surface, it is what the picture can say to your emotions, your heart and soul. What makes a piece of art Art? What is it that takes light, shade and colour from being a good use of materials to something that makes you cry with the beauty and spirit of it? Answers on a post card please ……

As I take this path of rediscovery further I have to apply it to my whole life and work, where do I go from here, what is the point of what I do? what do I want to say? how do I reapply the art of observation to my spiritual being? well in truth I know that to apply the art of observation to one aspect necessitates the application to all aspects of conscious living, it is a cascade affect that revels light and shadow previously veiled by half closed, tired eyes. Once the alarm has chimed incessantly rousing you from sleep and you throw back the curtains to reveal the fresh new light, you can not help but notice even familiar things with a fresher, sharper eye.

All this is in no way to justify the £90 I spent on art books yesterday…well maybe a little. But in truth I think for me the energy of this time the Winter Solstice has much to do with wanting to go back to the womb, to reform myself, to taking time to learn and improve on a practical level so that I can consciously reemerge at Imbolc/Spring refreshed, renewed and ready to take life and all it entails for me and my artistic/spiritual expression to another level of engagement.

 

Going back to source

Posted in art, cerri lee, clothing, damh the bard, druid, druidism, druidry, pagan, pagan music, paganism, sculpture, shamanism, spirituality, Uncategorized, wicca, witchcraft with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2011 by cerrilee

Recently I have been pondering the magic of Art and it’s ancient mystical roots.

I have recently finished a piece of work called “Cernunnos” that for me speaks of the origins of the pagan Horned God and then, a couple of weeks ago, I watched a curious film called “The Cave of Dreams”  made in a recently discovered cave in France where cave paintings have been found, these paintings are believed to be the oldest found so far at around 35,000 years old.

I have been driven for a long time by the need to understand what Art is at it’s source and I have long wondered if it still can have the same mysticism and power in a culture that is swamped by banal and fatuous images.

Almost every culture has in some way or another over the millennia created animal-headed men that have come to represent Gods, they are very familiar to all whether you be Pagan, Christian or any other religion, and they seem to me to be both a natural and magical way to interact with those forces of nature. They are powerful images that conjure a primal response within us and for me that is the whole point of art, to illicit an emotional response. Even within modern Paganism today many find ourselves drawn to this primal image and connection.

In some of the earliest images it is hard to see whether it is a man wearing an animal mask or an animal behaving like a man, the boundary is blurred and I feel that was the point. In order to catch your pray you must first understand it, maybe even become it. So are the beautiful cave paintings art or magic or both?  Were the shamans of the tribes, as walkers between this world and the world of spirit, the ones who painted these images, or was every hunter a shaman/artist? Did each hunter believe that to capture the animal in the flesh he must first capture it’s spirit?  In the dark recesses of the ancient caves by flickering fire light and with the most basic of ingredients gleaned from the earth, did they sing, dance and drum to the spirits of the animals before the hunt? Did they bind the animals and hold their spirits to give any advantage to the hunters against the enormity of mammoth, lion or rhino. Maybe the shaman stayed in the cave until the hunt was done, holding that energy for the tribe doing battle with magical spear and arrow?

Then there are the many small sculptures of naked women with large breasts often called the “Venus” of where ever they were found, older still than the cave paintings in many cases, but one was found as a painting in the French cave with animals woven into the design to look like parts of her body. Did they call to a spirit of creation to aid them in the hunt also?

All of these dreams and notions keep me searching for ways to express the ineffable through art, inspired by the magic of the ancestors.

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