On Celtic scholarship

For the last 40 years I have been involved with one form or another of esoteric practice and for the last 20 years or so I’ve been deeply involved in all things Celtic and with the practice of modern Druidry.  It was never my intention to be out in the public eye teaching these practices, as they are simply my own interpretations. But while sharing them with friends and others around warm fires under starry skies I was encouraged by many to offer them to a wider audience. I resisted for a long time, but eventually decided to offer an introductory workshop to see what sort of response I received. It sold out.

The wider emergence of a recognition that there is a need to reawaken a native Celtic spirituality based on both good scholarship and interpretation of ancient texts is exciting and heartening to me. To understand – as best we ever can with our modern mindset – the secrets and mysteries encoded in the ancient myths that have survived means seeing beyond the purely academic by drawing on the poetic and ethereal quality of the Celtic mindset. It means stepping outside the fully logical and linear and moving into a place that some are now calling the Celtic dreamtime. That word is deeply embedded in the Australian Aboriginal worldview and is acknowledged as such; yet it also seems to give us a glimpse of how our pagan Celtic ancestors viewed their own environment.

The inspiration behind my involvement in the Celtic way is to create something rooted deep in the past as evidenced by the ancient texts, yet at the same time wholly modern and relevant to the difficult times in which we find ourselves.  Wonderful initiatives such as Dadeni, and scholars like Sharon Paice MacLeod, Sharon Blackie and Lorna Smithers, as well as ‘British Bards’ such as the wonderful and charismatic Andrew Steed and others are taking a similar message out to a wider public. These are increasing awareness of the relevance of these texts beyond that which modern Druidic organisations such as OBOD are able to reach, appealing to those who do not feel a connection to modern Druidry.

My own offering may be less grand compared to those mentioned above – and I prefer it that way. It is based on that 40 years of esoteric study and 20 years of studying Celtic texts, myth and story I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  You see, it’s clear to me there was a form of what we would now describe as ‘shamanic practice’ either still in use, or at least remembered, when the ancient oral stories were finally written down. But the written evidence suggests that practice was very different to any surviving continuous shamanic tradition, and it’s ways would often be utterly incompatible with modern society. So to reawaken the ancient shamanic traditions of these islands we need to combine an understanding of the ancient Celtic worldview and cosmology with modern shamanic practice that owes much to Michael Harner’s core Shamanism as well as certain unbroken indigenous practices that seem to work well with the spirits of these lands. It doesn’t seek to copy others practices yet is inspired by them, and fully acknowledges their influence.

To discover more do please take a look at my website at mistdancer.org.uk.

An Introduction to Shamanism

February 17th 2018 9:30pm – 5:30pm. Court Hill Centre near Wantage

A one day basic course covering what shamanism is, how to journey, the three shamanic worlds, finding our own power animal and some basic shamanic healing techniques.

Based on core shamanic methods, this workshop will form a strong foundation for further exploration of shamanism and is a vital part of ensuring you have a good, strong relationship with your spirit guides and animal helpers from the beginning of your explorations. The day will be participative and fun as well as opening doorways into the spirit world as you learn to journey safely and effectively.

Limited numbers, please book early! Cost £35.

More details at https://mistdancer.org.uk/workshops-and-training/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/1494450364004188??ti=ia

So 2017, what was that all about?

A little review of the past year or so….

The New Year celebrations have come and gone, at least for those who celebrate such things; and the first Full Moon of 2018 has just arrived. This is a time of year when I sit and reflect on what’s happened, what has changed, and what I’ve learnt over those 12 months, and in many ways 2017 has been an extraordinary year.

I’ll begin with the constants: I’ve consolidated my daily shamanic and druidic practice into something much more manageable and coherent – and practical. Until this year there has sometimes been a disconnect or lack of coherence in how I’ve practiced, and as an individual with Virgo rising that has sometimes ben a deep source of frustration. I do occasionally feel this ned for everything to fit together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle, and a failure to do that can leave me frustrated and set off sometimes long and convoluted searches to find the missing piece, or even to throw the whole jigsaw puzzle away and start again. After years of practicing my practice I’ve finally reached a point where things flow – not perfectly, because nothing is ever perfect – but in a way that allows me to work with the spirits and my Gods in a deep and meaningful way.

In addition to that I’ve now found the time (and the serenity) to add a weekly day of practice that allows me an even deeper sense of connection with my practice, and with the land where I live and work. I won’t pretend that I manage this every single week – sometimes circumstances mean I have to be flexible and adjust, and that is a good lesson for me too. But I feel more content, more connected and more focused in my spiritual work.

Some of you will know that the year began with the sad event of the passing in to spirit of my shamanic teacher and mentor, Sarah Howcroft.  After spending time with her of the past three years or so we had come to know each other really well, and the simple knowledge that she was always there for me to turn to was something that I soon came to realise was for more important to me than I understood.  What turned out to be just a few days before she passed over Sarah had asked me to act as her funeral celebrant, which will always remain something I feel deeply humble and privileged to have done for her. I was due to meet with Sarah to chat with her so that I had a clear idea of what she wanted – the only instructions I had from her in a brief phone call just before she died was that it was to be ‘a kick ass send off’ with as many of the shamanic community as possible present. As it turned out she took a turn for the worse a day before I was coming over to see her and died that night.  It was pure luck that the good friend who had been staying with her and looking after her found my name and phone number scribbled on a piece of paper, otherwise it’s possible her wishes may never have been fulfilled.  The funeral ceremony itself was, I hope, exactly what she wanted because to have some 100 or so folk drumming around her farewell fire was something quite amazing and moving, and I doubt I’ll ever experience a farewell quite like it again.

At the beginning of the year I had four people working with me – students if you like, though I tend to share more by conversation than as a teacher. As the year went on a two of my students moved on while another became much more of a shamanic healing relationship.  I never expected to be teaching anyone in any event, and it remains a puzzle and surprise when folk ask me to teach them! I am very happy following my own path, and if others are interested to find out more then that too is a privilege I never take for granted. I’m lucky because I don’t need to take on students, or offer courses and workshops to earn a living as I’m happily ‘retired’, but I’m always willing to share with those who want to listen to me waffle on.

Even so 2017 was an exceptionally busy year for me as I got more involved with the South OxShamanics Drumming Group, and shifted in to working with others in ceremonies and rituals more than I had done for a few years.  Having left my position as Lead Priest of the Gorsedd of Cor Gawr in early 2016 I expected to find myself with more time to explore my own personal practice, which has happened; but at the same time I’ve found a rejuvenation in my desire to work with others more openly.

This was also the year I finally took the plunge and took a ‘formal’ astrology class.  I had tinkered around the edges for many years beginning way back in the 70s but had never taken it further. In fact I hadn’t studied anything astrological for many ten or fifteen years, so this was exciting stuff. Since the course ended I’ve been consuming books and practicing hard. I’m still very much at the beginners stage, and am enjoying it immensely.

In May a long anticipated and eagerly awaited holiday on Dartmoor with my friend Linda finally arrived and so for the first time in many years an opportunity to explore the remote parts of the moor and to visit stone circles, stone rows and other ancient places didn’t disappoint.  The cottage we stayed in was beautifully remote and to sit outside drumming to the spirits of place early in the morning in sunshine was a gift beyond words.  It was an enlightening and interesting week, and many lessons were learned.

June came, and another visit to Devon for the Mugwort Retreat organised by David and Emma Farrell. It was three days of magic and an experience not to be missed, once again learning so much.

Around July things began to slow down a little, which is probably just as well as I had unexpectedly been asked to present a workshop at the UK Shamanic Gathering later in the year. My dear friend Donna Forbes allowed me to run the workshop with her group in Chesham early in August, and that gave me the opportunity to get feedback as well as adjust the workshop here and there.  This was another lesson and challenge for me.  September brought the Shamanic Gathering and was both brilliant and challenging at the same time. A wonderful experience amongst beautiful people.

Still, by the end of November and the Gatekeeper Conference, I was exhausted and made the decision to find extensive quiet time, and to retreat from so much outwardly focused activity. I still intended to spend time with friends, but that was curtailed when I managed to catch flu over the last few weeks of the year.  Be careful what you wish for is very apt.

There is so much to be grateful for during 2017, and while it strongly challenged me in many ways it was also a deep learning experience for me. For that I am humbly grateful. I realise that I’m nowhere near as busy as many others, but as I get older I’m acutely aware of my own limitations and my own personality. I need to remain true to who I am. I’m also aware that 2017 was a year a failed to see a good number of dear friends who are very important to me. I need to make sure I put that right in the year to come. Finally, one of the most profound lessons was that while others may talk of facts proving this or that, espousing that the Druids and the Celts were this or weren’t that, the facts are not the whole story. The ‘facts’ can only take us so far, and the facts we know may not be all of the facts. They can never untangle myths that were deliberately written as riddles and mysteries. The facts are not the same as the truth, for the truth is always subjective. What is another’s truth may not be my truth, and the truth can only be found by listening deeply: listening to our helping spirits, listening to our gods and guides, and listening to the land itself.

Stonehenge and that tunnel thing

Other than my work with HAD I no longer have anything to do with Stonehenge other than on a deeply personal level. So this long and interesting article by Mike Pitts poses some profound questions. Of course we would all want the presence of the A303 to be removed from this landscape but the question remains at what cost – and by that I don’t mean the monetary cost. In essence Mr Pitts suggests that to build the road presents an enormous archaeological opportunity that supersedes any other issues. Everything else, he seems to argue, is detail and can be resolved. If we want the A303 removed there will be destruction somewhere, he argues, so why not in the WHS so that we can dig and dig and dig. 
For me this misses the point completely. By digging a huge tunnel across this sacred landscape we continue the destruction of it; but unlike our recent ancestors this won’t be done through ignorance of what we are destroying, but instead deliberately and opportunistically for the benefit of the archaeologist. By doing so we dishonour our deep ancestors, we dishonour those who created this landscape over thousands of years, and we dishonour ourselves. Yes, move the A303, but move it with honour and deep respect for those who built Stonehenge and what surrounds it, for those who lived and died here. After all, this isn’t just about the archaeologists. Is 


Small gods

Would that I were a storyteller and wordsmith; but I don’t fool myself. I’m not. My skills, such as they are lie in other areas; but that doesn’t mean I haven’t the deepest appreciation of those who can weave a tale into story and into modern myth. It’s a skill we desperately need so that we can, first of all, accept the fact that we are destroying the land because we have accepted the stories we have been sold and told; the stories that we have to have more, bigger, better. But we don’t. If we wake up, open our eyes, snap out of the trance we are collectively held in, then maybe, just maybe, we will change our perspective and understand that we need to once again listen to the land, and then to retell the stories she is telling us. I really believe it is the stories we can tell, the myths we share, that can change the direction we are travelling. Ah, if we would but stop and listen.
This essay by Dr Martin Shaw is long, but oh so worth making the time to read.