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.


Stepping down, moving on

For the last ten and a half years I have been honoured and privileged to lead and organise the Gorsedd of Cor Gawr; or to give it its more linguistically correct name, Gorsedd Côr y Cewri. Every solstice, both summer and winter, we have gathered at Stonehenge to honour the season and the spirits of place. Cor Gawr – as it is almost always abbreviated by everyone who knows it and attends – is, I think, unique. It requires no membership of any Order, Grove, or any other organisation you can think of; it requires no adherence to a particular spiritual path, or indeed to any path at all. The only restriction it has is on numbers, and that is set by English Heritage. Where Open Access is totally open in terms of numbers, the Gorsedd of Cor Gawr is only allowed a maximum of 100 folk at midsummer, and 80 at midwinter. Open Access is important and wonderful as a free celebration, secular or spiritual; but because of that English Heritage restriction on numbers the Gorsedd is able to offer a more focused and spiritual experience than otherwise would be the case. We meet at dawn on traditional Midsummers Day, a day celebrated still in many countries – and, no, it isn’t the same day as the solstice (confusing I know).

Cor Gawr also meets again on a date near the winter solstice, at dusk; which may well be much closer to the season and the time of day that was recognised and honoured at the Stones by our deep ancestors than some would imagine.

I was deeply honoured and not a little surprised to be asked to take over leading and organising Cor Gawr in 2005, by Emma Restall Orr, who was then the Head of The Druid Network. It was around Samhain that year when she asked if I would take on the responsibility and after a few days of deep consideration and contemplation, not to mention a few long talks with Emma, I accepted. Part of the agreement was that there would be a dedicated team of priests working alongside and with me, and that arrangement continues to this day. A few of the original team have left and a few have joined, but the team remains the backbone of the Gorsedd and the ceremonies that take place at each solstice. Without them I doubt there would still be a Cor Gawr.

Over the years things change and evolve. It’s said that one thing that never changes is there is always change; that is certainly the case with Cor Gawr. There have been considerable changes at English Heritage and relationships that had been built up over many years ended; the departure of Peter Carson from the management of Stonehenge was a huge blow to me personally. Others have quickly come and gone, though the Gorsedd has always managed to agree access on its traditional dates and times. Of course the move to the new visitor centre some mile and a half from the Temple proved a significant challenge as access is outside normal hours – pre dawn near to the summer solstice is early! Still, agreement was reached, and Cor Gawr continues to enjoy excellent relations with English Heritage.

Throughout the more than ten years I’ve been organising the Gorsedd I’ve really enjoyed my time leading Cor Gawr; there have been challenges and there have been a few (mostly minor) battles fought and won. But times change. I am now in my 66th year, and I confess to having one or two health issues; my energy levels are not what they were. 

But perhaps most of all there are things I want to do while I still can, and there are times when I’ve been unable to do some of the, because of my commitment to Cor Gawr. My spiritual path continues to evolve, as our paths always do, and it no longer feels appropriate for me to act as the lead for Cor Gawr, or to continue as the organiser. The facts are that I am much more of an introvert than perhaps I may appear; I have never felt comfortable being in the public eye, and have tried to remain in the background as much as its possible to while leading a public ritual! While I’ve done one or two with journalists I admire and trust, I’ve declined many an interview and a number of opportunities to speak on radio and TV. That simply isn’t me. I have never been one to seek publicity, preferring what I do to speak for itself. So, it is time for others to step forward and take Cor Gawr on into the future with fresh vision and fresh ideas. For now the remaining priests will work as a collective, organising the Gorsedd, and they will decide what direction Côr y Cewri takes, how it evolves, and how it is run.

I have had a wonderful ten years, and I thank each and every person who has ever attended the Gorsedd while I have been organising it; I am deeply in your debt. For, as was once said in a Cor Gawr ceremony, without you there is no Gorsedd.

I wish you health and prosperity. May you all walk your onward paths in beauty, honour, love and peace.

A sudden storm

When the rain finally arrived it came with such force that the water in the small pool became a cascade of what seemed to be small fountains leaping upward in graceful silver parabolic curves, with each drop creating a balletic dance of nature and geometry. The sound on the bright green hawthorn was a steely crescendo that acted as a counterpoint to the booming thunder that had been rumbling in the skies to the south for some time; like shimmering cymbals amidst an uneven unpredictable rhythm of drums. It had been as if nature was giving me time to prepare for the small apocalypse that now fell upon me. Sparrows delved deeper into the burgeoning growth for shelter while bees continued their foraging for pollen amongst the rosemary as if nothing had changed even as huge droplets collided with a select few, their bodies sent careering momentarily in wild and unpredictable directions. Undeterred by the random and apparent violent force of such a chance encounter, the unfortunate victim simply returned to the prior task as if nothing of any importance at all had occurred.

Drenched by the storm, entranced by the magic of the moment I gazed upon this hypnotic scene as the parched earth became enriched and nourished by the torrent; the heady scent of rain on dry soil filled my senses with the sheer joy of being alive to witness and experience such miracles. Enchantment seemed to be palpable; all I needed to do was stretch out a hand to touch it.

As quickly as it arrived, the storm passed; moving ever north westward the rain came to an abrupt and unexpected end and the sounds of its passing began to quietly fade into the distance and memory. The sun reappeared where a few moments ago there had been dark clouds; the garden now steamed with the heat and humidity of the day as the calming gentle murmur of bees and birds returned. 


I’m finally returning to a sense of health again after a good few weeks feeling desperately weak and unwell with bronchitis. There were a few times when I seemed to be on the mend only to slip back into the grip of the illness, which at the time I found deeply frustrating. Everyday tasks were proving too much for me, and any possibility of getting out walking in nature were doomed to failure.

It’s been a bit of a long road back – longer than the timescales involved would indicate; yet it has also been a time of increasing awareness of certain things.  It’s said that the only thing that stays constant is that everything changes, and that’s certainly true of the world around me; but it’s also true of me, and these past few weeks have let to a pause in my normal routines and allowed a deeper introspection on who I am and where i am headed in a spiritual sense. 

I’ve entitled this blog entry ‘recovery’ because that’s exactly where I am at the moment. A quick Google reveals the definition of recovery as:




noun: recovery; plural noun: recoveries


a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.

synonyms: recuperation, convalescence, return to health, process of getting better, rehabilitation, healing, rallying

improvement, rallying, picking up, betterment, amelioration;

rally, upturn, upswing, comeback, revival, renewal, a turn for the better


the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

synonyms: retrieval, regaining, repossession, getting back, recapture, reclamation, recouping, retaking, redemption; More


rarerecoupment, recuperation

Physically my recovery is most certainly a return to a normal state of health, but on a deeper level my experiences over the past few weeks have led me to realise I’m on a journey related to the second definition as well.  I am in the ‘process of regaining possession of something stolen or lost.’

Exactly what that is I can’t yet say, because it is still a process – ongoing as I write – that relates to some deep insights that came to me while I was unwell. There is something to be said for the way the mind seems open to deeper understandings and insights when access to our subconscious, or unconscious, is freed by illness. It’s not the first time I’ve had such experiences, but I feel there is something deep and profound happening following recent events. I need to explore pathways that I may have been avoiding (consciously or unconsciously), exploring more deeply a need to understand deity, the divine, or whatever word we may choose to describe something that is, in my experience, indescribable – something that is almost within reach yet never quite attainable, whether called God, or god or the gods, or Goddess, or simply Nature. 

I’m probably not making much sense; but I do know I need to make changes, to release blocks and remove distractions and focus on what is important. Where those decisions and choices lead only time will tell.