Tag Archives: druidism

‘A Druid’s Pilgrimage’ – a Druid-Actor’s perspective.

Nine Stone's Close, Photo by Author
Nine Stone’s Close, Photo by Author

What is it?

‘A Druid’s Pilgrimage’ is a documentary about modern day Druids and what they do. The documentary follows the narrative screenplay of a young girl, Gemma, who stays with her aunt and uncle, only to catch her uncle in his robes and performing a prayer to a tree. Her uncle introduces her to the concept of Druidry and takes her into the Derbyshire countryside on a pilgrimage. Asking questions along the way, Gemma learns about the spiritual path, the outdoors and herself. Throughout the film, footage of interviews with real-life, Druids will be shown to answer either one of her questions, or to back up a point the characters discuss.

How and why did I get involved?

In that weird and wonderful way of being contacted by a friend, who has a friend who knows a friend making a film. Seeming that I was one of the few Druids my friend knew who might be up for getting involved, he contacted me, then I was put in contact with the film director Roly Keates.

Roly had made more than a few documentaries previously, all based in Derbyshire: ‘The Wheel’ – a documentary about a spring in Belper. ‘If Walls Could Talk’ – the Romanticism of Drystone Walling. ‘Shred of Rome’ – A documentary on Romans in Derbyshire. ‘Lost History of Belper’ – a historical look at Belper, Derbyshire.

After talking with and meeting Roly, I felt relaxed in that he was sincere and genuine in his interest regarding Druidy. He came across it and felt it important enough to make a doumentary on the subject. I was initially an advisor, telling him my interpretation of Druidry as well as what little we know of them historically. In talking and chatting, and yes I had mentioned I am an actor, he asked if I’d be interested in playing the part. Well, I wasn’t going to say no to that kind of opportunity!

So, why did I do it? Because there is so little media representation that makes Druids and Pagans look good. Let’s be honest, we’re often portrayed as either being middle-aged hippies to be laughed at best, or robed lunatics seeking attention at worst. After talking with Roly about his project and seeing for myself he was taking Druidry seriously and wanted to portray this in a good way, I figured this would be a good thing for modern day Druidry and Paganism too.

What did I learn from it?

I learned to see Druidry through the eyes of another, how they perceive what I practice in a different light. The character I played (Dylan, very apt as that’s also my stage name) saw Druidry as a force for good in the world and seeking harmony in our existence. This made me realise how ‘bookish’ my Druidry tends to be and made me question how much and how little I actually practise it in my everyday life. I also learned that I can never learn my lines enough. One scene includes a huge monologue which, when filming, I just couldn’t stop getting wrong! I was very frustrated with myself but I learned something valuable: it’s not enough to know your lines, you have to know them backwards and upside down too. Kinda goes without saying, really, but hey-ho.

I learned how essential it was to use play to make my co-star feel at ease. By this I mean the girl who played Gemma, whom at 11, was playing in her first proper film. I felt it important for her to be relaxed, so we got to know each other through chatting, making faces at each other and playing games in between takes. Apart from going through our lines too! By the end, we’d developed a good camaraderie and when Roly told us to talk amongst ourselves in the Pilgrimage shots. It might look like we’re in deep conversation, but we were really talking about favourite colours, what our pets are like, pop songs and even a one-word-story game. She was cool, we made each other laugh.

Not really something I learned, but feel I have to say was how beautiful the Derbyshire countryside is. Whether it was standing before the oldest pear tree in the county (In Roly’s Aunt’s huge back garden, no less!), walking up to the stone circle at Arbor Low in both sunny and cloudy weather, walking amongst the buildings of Magpie Mine, sitting on rocks in a stream at Shining Cliff Woods, or standing on tall rock and visiting the “Druid’s Chair” at Harborough Rocks.

Would I do it again/get involved in another project like it?

If we had to reshoot something, absolutely! Would I do another project like it? No. Once I finish a project, I consider it done, so why would I do another of a similar ilk? I enjoyed performing in this one and I’m looking forward to it’s completion. If there was another documentary being made on the subject, I’d have to question the maker before joining in.

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A Druid’s Pilgrimage

1st Waning Gib ‚ôŹ

Well, hello there! It’s been a whilst since my last blog post. Sorry about that. Life stuff. Will explain later, I promise.

For now, I Just wanted to share this link showing a clip from last week’s filming.

I’ve been involved in a documentary about Druids called ‘A Druid’s Pilgrimage’ Directed by Roland ‘Roly’ Keates. In fact the snippet shows me (under my actor name “Dylan Knight”) playing in the drama narrative that threads the interviews with real life Druids together. I’m currently on day #3 of filming and can’t wait to see it when the whole thing is done.

Anyway, here’s the link, sorry it’s on FB at the present, but more blogs will follow in regards to making it as well as the premier.

All the best,

Locksley. ūüėČ

Chasing the Mabon

Big thanks to Teller who asked me ‘So, when are you putting up the blog?’ And a huge thanks to Cthulhudruid who managed to find my original post after it had been accidentally deleted!

Maponus image from Gettyimages

Ah, yes. Autumn! The season of falling leaves, bounties of fruit and vegetation, bird migration and garden spiders coming out to capture unsuspecting prey (shudder). This season also sees the Equinox as the dramatic increase of the dark overtakes the long summer nights. The balance is struck and the wheel turns once again….

Within the usual modern Pagan circles, the Autumnal Equinox has been given a name…. Mabon. Whom or what does this name come from? What the hell is a Mabon anyway?

The short story is that in the 1970’s Aiden Kelly, Wiccan High Priest, came up with the name for the simple fact that he didn’t like that the Autumnal Equinox celebrations didn’t have a grander name. In his own words, please read this.

The long story…..

Mabon is a now shadowy figure, one who once had a cult all of his own stretching from Wales to Lancashire, Northumberland, Cumbria and Scotland. Mabon means ‘Son’ in Welsh and the most familiar version of this is the character of Mabon ap Modron (Son of Mother), from the tale ‘How Culhwch Won Olwen‘.

In the story, the hero Culhwch falls in love with the beautiful Olwen. Which is great, because she loves him too and it turns out that marrying her will lift the curse that was put on him by his jealous step-mother. Problem solved. However, her Dad is Yspaddaden Bencawr, chief giant and realm owning badass. He is so against the idea of the marriage, he sets Culhwch 40 impossible tasks which must be completed. No victory from the young upstart, then no nuptials. Amongst these tasks was one where Culhwch must obtain the comb and shears from behind the ears of the dreaded supernatural boar, Twrch Trwryth. But this could not be done unless he somehow obtained the mardiest dog in the world, Drudwyn. And even then Drudwyn had to be controlled by Mabon ap Modron, a huntsman who must ride the steed Gwyn Dunmane…. and the snag was: “Mabon ap Modron who had been stolen from his home when he was three nights old, and his whereabouts not known…..

Luckily for Culhwch, his uncle Arthur (yes, THAT Arthur) had given him some of his knights as companions who helped accomplish most of the impossible tasks like some adrenaline charged-Redbull fuelled group from Dungeons & Dragons…. but they could not find Mabon ap Modron.

Anywhere.

Like, nowhere.

It was only after Arthur discovering hint about asking the Oldest Animals in the World the heroes stood a chance. So Culhwch’s band sought out the Blackbird of Cilgwri, the Stag of Rhendynfre, the Owl of Cam Cwlwyd, the Eagle of Gwernabwy and the Salmon of Llyn Lliw, to find Mabon’s location: the fortress of Caerloyw. Even then they have to break him out by force. Skipping to the end; Mabon and another hunter, some wild dude called Cynedyr Wyllt manage to corner Twrch Trwryth and grab the comb (Mabon) and shears (Cynedyr) before the Chief of Otherworldly Boars escapes and runs into the sea, prophesying he and Arthur shall fight at the end of the world…… well, a big rumble between them in the far future anyway.

In one version of the ‘Dream of Rhonabwy‘, Mabon is one of the advisors of Arthur, although this could be a confusion with another, Mabon ap Mellt (Son of Lightening) is described as a huntsman also….. This version hints at either this Mabon was as quick as lightening or was descended from some cthonic sky-god.

Interestingly, the character of Mabon was taken up by Roman occupiers in Britannia. Or perhaps, was taken up by Romanised Celts in the form of Maponus ‘Divine Youth’. Coins and inscriptions show Maponus with his dog (Drudwyn?). It appears that Maponus was equated with Apollo, the god of healing and poetry….. and linked with the bow and arrow, tools of the hunt?

What of Modron? Does the mother give any indication as to who Mabon is? She is of the ‘Washer at the ford’ variety of supernatural women, and is daughter to Afallach, one of the lords of Annwn (Welsh Otherworld), specifically, the ruler of Avalon. If true, then she was a magical being and therefore a woman of Sovereignty (The right to choose and the right to rule) and supposedly bore two sons to Urien Rheged, king of Rheged (supposedly a kingdom in Northern England and Southern Scotland). One of these sons, Owein, plays chess with Arthur in the ‘Dream of Rhonabwy‘…. see how these things always go in cycles?

Bizarrely enough, one of the stanzas of the Graves reads: “The grave in the upland of Nanllau; his story no one knows. Mabon the son of Modron the sincere.” So which is it? Is this the grave of Mabon who was in the quest for Olwen’s hand in marriage? Or was he always a mystery and none knew his details? If so, then why was he so popular? Could it be that Mabon ap Modron was in fact the figure of a mystery tradition? Like a Brythonic version Mythras?

The fact that there are remnants and inscriptions to Mabon/Maponus means there was some kind of reverence to him. What this originally was is sadly lost to time, but things have a very strange way of returning. In Modern Druidry, especially in OBOD, where the role of Mabon is given to the youngest member in the ceremony. When Aiden Kelly chose that name, did he do it because it fitted his aesthetic or was there a whisper from a long forgotten heroic huntsman? Also, how the hell did a babe taken away from his mother’s breast of only three nights old learn to become a hunter in the prison of a fort!? Perhaps….. and this is my interpretation…. perhaps Mabon in the story is meant as a metaphor for the adventurous spirit. He is the youthful part of us that dares to do the impossible once he has broken free of the dark prison of our minds. The Mabon hones it’s skills and when is broken free by bravery and need it can go forward and seize the fierce dog of anger to accomplish great things. For when the sun goes down at the Autumnal Equinox does the night get stronger. And as the nights draw in, it is the perfect time to develop our own skills and look inward until we need to release the adventurous spirit within.

Sources:

The Isles of the Many Gods, David Rankine & Sorita D’Este. Avalonia, London, 2007.

The Mabinogion, a new translation by Sioned Davies, Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007.

The Keys to Avalon, the True Location of Arthur’s Kingdom Revealed, Steve Blake & Scott Lloyd, Element Books Limited, Dorset, 2000.

Realignment

June.  That was the last month I wrote something in depth. I have managed to write something every month or so, albeit in the form of a poem, a saying, or even a prayer. 

Actually, I don’t feel the need to write anything in depth.  No examinations of what those legends may actually mean, no breaking down of Pagan concepts (Classical or Modern), no questioning of the values or ethics around us.  In fact there are so many people reeling from the political victory of Brexit and Donald Trump, there are plenty already questioning the world around them…. 

 Whereas my investigative flair has faded to nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Diddley-Squat.  

During August, I feared I might have severed the link between myself and my spirituality.  Since the end of June, I dedicated myself to learning my lines for a theatrical performance.  In August, I did the same with another, both of them are now finished and performed.  Having embraced my acting self as my Bardic self, I have sought to regain and discover new skills for being the actor I want to be.  As well as discovering the actor I am turning into.  

It would be wrong of me to say I ‘put my life on hold’ because of the two plays.  Sure, I became less socially active and my days off were dedicated to line learning as were my evenings after work and then there were rehearsals.  

Performance is a discipline. It is hours of line learning, practicing the mannerisms of another person, working with the energy levels of your colleagues so the show does not lag.  Remembering where to be in the right place at the right time, thinking within a split second of a replacement word if you end up forgetting the correct one and doing all of this with a huge adrenaline rush once you are doing it.  To do that and more requires focus and discipline in yourself. 

And so, I threw myself into this creative path.  To me, it feels so right to do so.  It has stoked my inner fires and is my main focus. Where I may not be performing my Bardic Rituals everyday (the last was before I moved house in June) I have come to understand this, at the moment, is not what I need in my life right now.  

I still light my candles to my deities, ancestors and the spirits around me.  I still honour the seasons that pass and celebrate them; I still give offerings and have even done a little research into Japanese Fox spirits.  I have discovered my spirituality is in who I am, not just what I do.  This has also allowed me to view my spirituality, my beliefs and my self objectively.  And in this I have learned much, including belief in myself. 

But for the time being, I will post when I can with what I can give.  

After all, if one’s spirituality is only defined by one’s work with ritual, then what is ritual if not a performance? 

Photo by Locksley2010

The Morrigan’s Mask…

I was inspired by this piece written on The Morrigan in Danu Forest’s article on ‘The Gods are not for sale!’ which you can read for yourself here.

So, I have to thank Leithin Cluan, really because she posted it to our Grove.  My particularly favorite bit is:

No the Morriigan is not an easy goddess- disrespect her land and she will want blood. Literally. She is sexual, primal, gutsy, scary- she will do the hard, horrible work, embrace her fury so a clean start is possible- but no she she’s not interested in comforting you because you don’t want to be as tough as your life requires right now, don’t want to wade into difficult moral or emotional terrain. She won’t hold your hand if you are scared of the dark, but she might smile if you pick yourself up, get fed up with your cowardice and do what needs to done. Read the old tales, research the folklore- visit the places on the land that honour her, in the real world. It’s all there. Get out of your own head, your own story- she’s waiting outside. ¬†¬†

Indeed!

Not a simpering maid, this Goddess. ¬†This portrayal is one that evokes primal strength, a bolshy nature of “Well, do it then!“. ¬†It also brings, at least to my mind, the now stereotypical image of the Morrigan: A flame haired beauty screaming across the battlefield with a bloody sword and gore splattered shield. ¬†Heralding the death of her foes as she unleashes a furious murder of crows on those whose souls she has come to claim. ¬†She is the black of night, the crimson fountain, the pale moon all in one and death is her punishment to the weak. ¬†She mesmerizes with her blatant sexuality, oozing appeal with every curve and her eyes dare you to take her… if you can.

This imagery and the above quote, reflect only part of her being. ¬†The Morrigan, believe it or not was only classed as a ‘Goddess of Battle’ only recently.

Everyone who has heard of her is familiar with the iconic raven and crow association, they are carrion birds after all, and eating the slain on the battlefield is a pretty sure way of a having them represent death.

Her powers influence battle to be sure, The Daghda, after seeing her washing in the river convinces her to ensure victory against the Fomorians by having sex with her.  At the end of the battle of Moytura, she sings a song of victory and also prophecies of the end of the world.

In the Cuchulainn saga, she tries to seduce Cuchulainn, only for him to refuse her (something she really doesn’t like). ¬†In that story she shows her shape-shifting abilites: as a maiden, an eel, a wolf, a crone. ¬†The Crone guise is used when Cuchulainn meets a crone with a cow, and is tricked into blessing the crone and thereby healing all the wounds he had inflicted on her.

So yes, she does have an association with death, with transformation and with prophecy.  More than that she is also a Goddess of Sovereignty (this is where the cow comes in, it represent the land, generosity and a number of Goddesses).  Where she is death, she also represents life: fertility and bounty,  both of which make way for the future- something she appears to know of before others do.

I am very aware this is merely an introduction into The Morrigan and will give more of my findings when I have them. ¬†The way I see Her is like the bright full moon behind a cover of cloud: You know she is there and every now and then, she’ll be visible, but only for a moment and even then, was it the full picture?

Like her guises, The Morrigan has many masks. ¬†The mask I see her with isn’t of the screaming warrior, or of the regal queen. ¬†To me, at least, right now, she is mysterious woman showing me I must pay attention. ¬†The choice she brings is to pick myself up or lie where I am and wonder where I went wrong. ¬†Thankfully, I chose the former… after all, in front of such a pretty lady, it simply wouldn’t do to wallow.

I remember meeting the Morrigan in a dream in early 2013, the most distinctive feature I remember is the red make up around her eyes… the below image reminds me of her. ¬†Taking hint of Cuchulainn, offering her a blessing, I have trialled giving offerings of milk. ¬†So far, she likes anything I can give in Her name, but mainly milk, beer, whisky, tobacco, food (Not beef) and chocolate cake.

Image from Old Camarilla Wiki  Рartist and details unknown, but would love to give credit to whoever did this. 

The Bard Within

I’ve finally got around to forging a tool! Not in the literal sense of molten metal and hammers, but in the metaphorical sense.

I’ve made myself a Facebook page!¬† The idea being that I can advertise myself as an actor and storyteller and that folks can see me (under my stage name) in action.¬† Then said folks can contact me to hire or have me perform for them.¬† Shameless link!

I made the page a bit post-haste as I needed something quick for a gig I’d been asked to this month.¬† One of my Druid friends has very kindly offered to help me make my own website, so watch this space!

Remember what I wrote in my last blog about taking advantage of offers Life presents?¬† Well, the week after I wrote that, I was contacted by a friend of mine who I’ve performed for previously and wondered if I’d be up for a spot at Nottingham’s SOBAR (a nonalcoholic bar, the whole weekend festival was for a charity for people recovering from alcoholism).¬† So I took it up immediately!

Last week, I headed a night of storytelling for my Druid Grove, which you can read here (it’s all about the links today!). It was a good night and it felt right.¬† I’m not naive or stupid enough to believe that after one night of MCing a story night with some friends of mine, that I can go around doing it professionally.¬† Truth is I’ve fought this.
Normally, I tell a story to my Grove a little unprofessionally, stumbling here and there.  But at last weeks meeting, it was the first time I did it properly, calmly and not without humour.

I spent seven years in a theatrical tourist attraction telling stories of the Horrible History kind, all in costume and make up.  I gave that up when I moved to Nottingham and lost a part of myself doing it.  It was only when I was challenged (the Best way to get me to do anything) to do a Halloween themed story piece that I realised I missed this!

So I made more! And there is more to come and more to develop on.¬† I even tend to tell stories when I do ceremony and ritual work with either my Grove or the Moot I co-run.¬† Its intrinsic to my sense of being, spiritually, holistically.¬† Even when using the Druid Animal Oracle there is one card I have difficulty remembering the meaning of, but the story behind it… that’s where the meaning comes out (its the Seal, card btw). So when that card comes out, I remember two of the three catchword and tell the story of the Selkie because its more in depth than the card meaning in the booklet.

The what I did on Sunday, was use my Highwayman character, The Scarlet Blade.¬† I was in this very modern cafe dressed as though I was an 18th Century vagabond.¬† As soon as I saw the children enter I knew I had to tailor this.¬† The first time I performed the SB was in a bar filled with merry poets and every filthy joke and bawdy line was used… couldn’t do that here, so I chopped and changed it.¬† With five minutes left, I pulled a bit of a history lesson out of my tricorn hat and told what Dick Turn was really like.

Ok, so I didn’t have the bawdy, foul mouthed jeering from the first time, what I did have was a dad telling me that through my set, his very young son kept telling him “Dad! Dad! There’s a Pirate over there!” The child gleefully hid away when I pulled my plastic pistol out at him and the dad told me “He’ll remember that for the rest of his life…” That made my day!

It appears that embracing my performing self, the actor, the storyteller has all come about after admitting who and what my Bardic self is.  Its just that I had to forget in order to find myself again. 

Me as The Scarlet Blade on Sunday 17th August 2014.  Photo by Amy Hills.

image

‘Into Darkness’…

wpid-img_20140730_205721_931.jpg

 

Yep, I pretty much stole that title from the Star Trek movie. ¬†Because its appropriate, Kirk and crew face their darkest mission, yet it’s about the beginning of exploring the great dark of space.

In my last post here, I wrote of how I interpreted a visual sight (not to mention all the cawing of those crows) as being a message from The Morrigan… I just didn’t know what it meant.

My good friend, Cristina, interpreted it as a message of ‘Transformation and regeneration… usually after a time of pain. ¬†And War-Goddesses are also Goddesses of healing‘.

Today, I figured out the message!

On the OBOD Bardic course, I’ve been on Gwers #45 since April. ¬†I tried out the Practicum in it when I was in Cyprus, but I more often than not kept falling asleep. ¬†Today, I felt the urge to read it and do it again. ¬†I answered the questions suggested with different answers to what I got the first time. ¬†The exercise (no spoilers for my Bardic friends who will be reading this!) this time was a lot more productive. ¬†I think the chunk of limestone on my diaphragm helped me NOT fall asleep this time.

My thoughts gave way to nothing…. and then the answer revealed itself like a statue being uncovered in the sea as the surf gives way to reveal a secret hidden in plain sight:

All of my life I’ve tried to force my hand to make things happen. ¬†Tried to make my life into something to go my way. ¬†In ways, it did and in ways it didn’t. ¬†I mean it’s good to have a goal, but…. BUT… what about¬†letting life give the opportunity? ¬†What about letting life happen and when it presents you with an opportunity you then take it? ¬†There’s a choice there: Stay on your present course and things will work out more or less as you expected. ¬†Or take the opportunity and dare to let life take you somewhere new, somewhere unexpected. ¬†Even if it doesn’t work out… you tried.

And so… this bit as I wrote it in my Bardic Journal, I¬†KNEW was the answer to what the message was:

“In life we make our own way, we must take action. ¬†But let life show you how, where and what.”

And as if to confirm my realisation as I wrote that down, there was a caw… then another… then a third! (I shit you not!) A young crow was on the roof as I was scribbling away out in the garden. ¬†I laughed out to myself, to the crow, to the garden. ¬†I got it! ¬†To allow life to show you an opportunity, you need to take a moment of stillness, look into the dark (as in silence and withdrawal) and have faith. ¬†It doesn’t matter if that faith is in yourself, faith in the Gods, or spirits or whatever… at least put your faith in Life.

I was happy with that and I accepted it… and in accepting, my regeneration and transformation begins.