The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

The Wheel of the Year: Sustainable and Spiritual Activities for the Fall Equinox September 20, 2015

Note: This post is directed at those who live in the northern hemisphere; for my readers in the southern hemisphere, you can see my post on the Spring Equinox for activities appropriate to you!

 

Hemlocks entering the dark half of the year....

Hemlocks entering the dark half of the year….

As the days shorten and we once again are faced with the coming of the winter months, we are reminded of the cycles that the sun provides to us and the promise, always, of new beginnings.  Each season brings its own spiritual and sustainable activities–and the Fall Equinox is so full of many things to see and to do!

 

The Fall Equinox sits on the gateway between the light and dark half of the year and after the equinox, we are in the dark half of the year once more. It is at the moment of the equinox that the light and the dark are in balance–and we, too, can seek such balance. In my region of the world, the Fall Equinox happens just as the weather finally cools down, just as the leaves begin to change, just as the air has a bit of a nip it didn’t have even a few weeks before. The goldenrod and New England Aster are in bloom but may be on the decline–and these plants, with some others, are our last sources of nectar of the year for honeybees and wild pollinators. The nuts and apples are dropping from the trees everyone is scurrying to get to them before the snows set in.

 

I love the fall–I feel like I’ve been in a frenzy all summer with gardening and foraging activities, where there is always so much to do, so much to put by, so many things you don’t want to miss. As the cold comes in, the world slows down a bit and we slow down with it. This is especially true when you are actively homesteading, farming, practicing herbalism, wild food foraging, or doing any other kind of activity that involves working outdoors and in nature.

 

Given this glorious time, we have many sustainable and spiritual activities we can do to encourage balance, sustenance, storage, and community.

 

1.  Spent time in (very) close observation of nature. Getting outside to see the amazing, incredible fall leaves and the quickly changing landscape is a must-do for this season. I would suggest that this is a good time to zero in on small details of the changing landscape–see the leaves individually, not just the whole forest or trees. One of the ways to get really close is to obtain a loupe (a small magnifying glass that is highly portable). If you take the loupe out into the land during this time, new worlds open up–you can do very close observation of fall leaves, flowers, and other things.

 

2.  Hold an Eisteddfod. In the Welsh tradition (and consequently, in the Revival Druid tradition), an Eisteddfod is a celebration and competition of the bardic arts: poetry, music, song, dance, and so on.  This is a wonderful way to enjoy the cool nights before the winter sets in. Getting some friends together, getting a big fire going, have people share stories and songs, offer  some prizes, open a bottle of dandelion wine or pass some freshly pressed apple cider and enjoy!

 

Pressing Apple Cider

Pressing Apple Cider

3.  Press some apples. Apples are a tree that humanity has held a very long and sacred relationship with–and cider pressing is an important part of that legacy. After a Wassail in the winter to ensure a blessing, the harvest unfolds in September with an abundance of apples! Its great to go out seeking apples–don’t pay for them. Wild apples can be found all over the place: ask your neighbors for their windfall apples, collect them from parks, find them along the road, and more.  You can get hundreds of pound of free apples just for looking and this will result in a mix of  varieties and flavors. In terms of pressing, you can make your own press, buy a press, share a press with friends, or even ask a local cider mill if they will press your apples (many will for a fee).

 

4.  Learn to Can. Fall is a very abundant time–September in my bioregion provides the largest part of the harvest, including the tomato crops, apples, pears, peppers, beans, eggplant, corn, and so much more. If you are new to canning and want to learn, I recommend you start by learning how to hot water bath can and leave the pressure canning till you have some hot water canning experience under your belt. The best way to learn is to find someone to teach you if possible. You will also want to get a book on canning, like the Ball Book of Canning. I use the Ball Book primarily for vegetable canning–their jam/fruit recipes are too high in sugar for my taste. If you want to can jams with honey, low or no sugar, also pick up Preserving with  Ponoma’s Pectin by Allison Carol Diffy.  Learning about Ponoma’s Pectin really changed the way I canned and made it much more appealing because its more fruit and less sweet.

 

5. Get to know your farmers Spending time at a farmer’s market can have you score big in terms of the bulk fruits and veggie that you want to learn to can or put in a root cellar. Even with my enormous and productive garden at my Michigan homestead, I still purchased bulk potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers because these “nightshade” family crops in bulk would screw up my crop rotations–they are heavy feeders. Now in my transition period renting in PA, local farmers are even more important! This time of year, farmers frequently have reasonably cheap bulk produce at the farmer’s market. Its a good idea to get to know the people who are growing your food, learn their growing practices, and support them in their work.

 

6. Establish a Pantry. In the earlier part of the 20th century, every household had a pantry, although today, keeping a pantry is a skill largely forgotten. Traditionally, a pantry is a place where we can store bulk dry goods and canned goods. There are lots of good reasons to start a pantry: first,  a pantry allows you to buy dried goods in bulk to save on costs. Second, a pantry allows you to safely store things away when they are abundant—this allows you to live and eat closer to the seasons and live more sustainably. Third, a pantry gives me food security, where I have a good amount of food in my house in case of emergency, disruption in shipping lines, big winter storms, and so on. For more information on how to establish a pantry, see this article.

 

7. Build a Root Cellar (or Root Cellar barrel). The compliment to the pantry, is of course, a root cellar. Root cellars take many different forms–I used five-gallon buckets sunk in the earth while I was in Michigan and also helped a friend build his own earthbag root cellar (which was quite a feat, but completely awesome when it was finished). Storey Publishing has an excellent book on different options for root cellars called Build Your Own Underground Root Cellar. The other option for a root cellar is a basement root cellar, where part of a basement is converted.  You can also find a wealth of information available online on any of these three root cellar designs.

 

8. Convert your lawn. I’ve been a long-time advocate of converting lawns to anything that isn’t lawn: vegetables, herbs, perennials, wildflowers, orchards, and more. Fall is a perfect time to begin a lawn conversion process because many of the materials that are useful for sheet mulching can be found in the fall (like leaves, dead material, etc). I have numerous posts on the subject to get you started, including a discussion of why to convert a lawn, a great example from Nature’s Harvest Permaculture Farm which was a fully converted front lawn, how to sheet mulch (two ways), and broader discussions of the need to regenerate our lands (which lawn conversion helps us do).

 

Anything is better than a lawn!

Anything is better than a lawn!

9.  Adopt and begin to regenerate an abandoned site.  In addition to beginning to work on our own sites, consider adopting another site–especially a site that has been neglected or that nobody else cares about. We have so many sites like these–places nobody wants to be, spaces abandoned and damaged–and one of the things we can do as a spiritual and sustainable practice is work to make that site just a little better than we found it. Scatter seeds, add nutrients, understand the history of the land and create a plan! (More on this practice in upcoming blog posts!)

 

10. Make some Acorn Bread. Another really fun thing to do this season is to gather up some acorns and make some acorn bread! I haven’t yet posted my recipes for acorns, but there is a great PDF from the California Oaks Foundation called Acorn and Eatem.  It has recipes, how to prepare acorns, and more!

 

11. Explore rocket stove technology. Consider building yourself a rocket stove for fuel-efficient cooking (indoors or out). I have built several of these over the years, and they always make a great meal–and a great project.  I’m amazed by how little resources they take to do any cooking, and in a time of resources that are growing more and more scarce, rocket stoves are a smart idea.

 

12.  Go Mushroom Hunting. Some of the most tasty mushrooms of the year, at least in my bioregion, can be found in the fall.  The Hen of the Woods (miatake) is a wonderful mushroom that only appears in the fall–it has both medicinal qualities and is a fantastic edible.  Others include late Chicken of the Woods, Puffballs, Cauliflower mushrooms, Honey Mushrooms, and more. If you are new to foraging, check out my two posts on how to get safely and ethically started.

 

13.  Make some Smudge Sticks. As the plants die off and the cold sets in,  you can make smudge sticks using up any remaining plant matter that you have locally available. Its a wonderful way to create some sacred smoke and a great craft to do with friends.

 

Amazing early fall harvest day!

Amazing early fall harvest day!

14.  Seek balance. The Fall Equinox is a time where the light and the dark are in balance–and we can seek balance in our own lives in a number of ways. One of the things I like to do during this time is to create a list of the things that I enjoy the most and that bring me the most satisfaction and benefit (being in nature, gardening, foraging, writing, reading, etc).  Then, I keep track of how much time I spend on those activities, and find ways of building more time for those things I love the most. This kind of activity keeps me in balance.  Other simple activities include hot baths, learning how to say no, or even just taking time each day to enjoy a quiet cup of herbal tea.

 

15.  Make some ink. With pokeberry, buckthorn, walnuts and many other berries and dye plants now available, its a great time to make some ink! I have instructions here for how to do so.

 

16.  Prepare for the dark half of the year. A lot of people aren’t fans of winter and actively oppose it, but its going to come whether or not we like it to. Given this, approaching the dark half of the year as as much about mindset as it is about physical preparation. One of the ways to make it enjoyable is to ritually and mentally prepare yourself for the coming cold–make some plans for good “stay at home activities” like reading books, writing, artistic projects, learning instruments (for that Eisteddfod!) and more.

 

I hope that these suggestions are helpful as you celebrate the Fall Equinox. Happy Alban Elfed!

 

 

A Druid’s Indoor Altar / Shrine – Seasonal, Elemental, and Spirit January 3, 2013

Now that the winter snows are upon us, I’ve been focusing on some “inside” activities that we can do as druids. I had a few friends new to the druidic and earth-centered path ask about the purpose and setup of a druid altar. I want to start by reiterating that druidry is a very personal path.  While there are things that all druids do agree on (such as a spiritual connection to the living world, a reverence and respect of nature, and finding inspiration from the ancient Druids in the past) there is also much that is personally determined (such as belief systems, relationship to divinity, etc.)  Because of this, a lot of the way you set up a personal altar and/or shrine is based on your own specific belief path.  With that said, having some examples and pointers are still very helpful!

 

What is an altar? What is a shrine? Why do druids have them?

Let’s start with some definitions.  Traditionally (and I mean traditional in terms of world religions, not druidry) an altar is a place of offering, where offerings are left for a specific purpose. A shrine, on the other hand, is a place of spiritual significance, where veneration, respect, worship, or homage is paid.  So an altar might be at/near/on a shrine, for example.  Druids often refer to “altar” to describe both of the above.  I’m going to use altar as its the more common term within druidry (despite the fact that not all druids leave offerings–although I believe the majority of us do).

Druids of create an altars for various reasons.  First, an altar is a dedicated space for an outward expression of your internal spiritual journey. If you engage in daily meditation or other activity, or for when you are doing ritual work, its useful to have a space to visit.  Its also good to have a place to put objects of significance, such as stones or feathers, and it can be added to as you go about your spiritual path.

Most of the druids that I know dedicate a shelf, mantle, or table, or small space indoors.  Those of us who also have access to outdoor areas usually have a few spaces outdoors as well.  I’ve blogged a lot about outdoor spaces here, here, and here.  So I won’t say too much more about outdoor spaces, but instead, focus on an indoor altars.  For my indoor altar, I have a nightstand that has one small drawer and also a larger cabinet space that I purchased used when I was in graduate school in New York.  Its now traveled to three states with me, and maybe five or so years ago, I woodburned it with various symbols, trees, etc.  This is my “main” altar and one I use for ritual, meditation, etc

Here’s a closeup of my main altar stand, which I woodburned.

Main altar - woodburned stand

Main altar – woodburned stand

 

Completeness vs. Growth

Another concept I’d like to introduce is the idea of evolving, growing altars. When you start setting up an altar it is very likely that its not going to have everything that you hope it will have and its not going to look the way you want it to look. Time works in your favor here, and nature (and other fellow druids, family, and friends) have a way of giving you things that may eventually end up on an altar.  This means, again, that going out and buying everything new to make your altar perfect sort of defeats the purpose of having it. Not to mention, as I’ve blogged about before, that compulsive consumerism is a habit that anyone in an earth-centered path needs to start avoiding. Your altar is supposed to evolve, to grow, as you do. And that’s part of the experience of creating one.

 

What goes on an altar/shrine?

Now that we know what an altar is, what do you put on it?  I’d like to take this opportunity to once again point out that as earth-centered, spiritual people, we should also be making sure that what goes on an altar minimally impacts the planet. This means, if at all possible, it should be gathered/grown/made/found, given as a gift, purchased from a local artist, or purchased used, rather than purchased new.  If you are gathering things from nature, make sure you have permission (and there are multiple kinds). This is for several reasons, but mainly from a spiritual sense, where an item comes from determines, to some degree, what energies it has associated with it. Would you rather have the energies of a peaceful ocean or a forest stream, or the energies of a chaotic Target or Walmart? But I think its also about personalization…you will be able to find things, over time, much more effectively.

In my photos and descriptions below, you’ll get a good sense of the kinds of things I put on an altar.  I’m also going to include a list here:

  • Feathers
  • Stones
  • Shells
  • Sticks / wood carvings / roots
  • Divination tools (runes, tarot cards, ogham, etc.)
  • Journal or working book
  • Candles
  • Incense
  • Images / Icons
  • Plates/bowls for putting things in
  • Vessels of water
  • Representations of the four elements
  • Handmade objects
  • Other working tools (cups, wands, etc.)
  • Plants
  • Paintings
  • Beads/rosaries

My main working altar, as shown in the photo below has a lot of different objects.  I very recently acquired the bronze stag candelabra as a gift which really makes the whole thing wonderful (and for the record, I’ve been hoping for a centerpiece for my altar for years and years). I also have branches from trees, some earth in a cauldron, water from a recent ritual, incense, tarot cards, various stones, and my wand.  Everything has a purpose in being there.  I hung a piece of artwork–the circular tree made out of natural materials–behind the altar.   The artwork was purchased at a fair trade gift fair a few years ago.

Main altar

Main altar

Artwork

Artwork

 

Seasonal Altars

My main altar, as I described above, is a small nightstand.  Upon this I put an altar cloth that I change based on the seasons (white representing snow/cold in winter; pale blue/green in the spring, bright/deep green in the summer, purple and gold in the fall). Since I took this photo near Alban Arthan (the Winter Solstice), I have a white cloth for the season. On my main altar, I usually also try to include a symbol of the season (so at Alban, I might go out and get a bowl of snow, let it sit till it melts and eventually evaporates; acorns or pumpkins in the fall, seeds in the spring, etc).  A lot of druids change their altar for each of the eight holidays in the wheel of the year–and I think this is a great practice too.  I usually change mine at the four fire festivals, but that’s just a personal choice.

Main altar

Main altar

Here are some suggestions for evolving seasonal altars:

  • Alban Arthan (Winter Solstice) / Dec 21st: Colors: White, light blue, silver, black.  Items: Bowl of snow, winter photos, dormant seeds, icicles (they don’t last long but look great in a bowl of snow!)
  • Imbloc / Feb 2nd: Colors: White, light blue, light green.  Items: Sprouting seeds, milk, blossoms (usually its too cold for me to do this, but sometimes we have something like a snowdrop), more snow
  • Alban Eiler (Spring Equinox) / March 21st: Colors: Light green, light yellow.  Items: Sprouting seeds (I like to sprout plants that I will put in my garden, I leave them on my altar for a few days); sprouting branches, a bowl of spring rain, eggs.
  • Beltane / May 1st: Colors: Medium green, pink.  Items: spring leaves, bowls of fresh spring rain, small plants, mayflowers, early spring greens, spirit cakes,
  • Alban Heruin (Summer Solstice) / June 21st: Colors: Bright yellow.  Items: Freshly gathered herbs (the summer solstice is a fabulous time for herb gathering), early fruits, veggies, leaves, etc.
  • Lughnassadh / August 1st: Colors: Bright green and gold (the summer is still going strong on this holiday).  Items: Berries, bounty from the garden (like squash, tomatoes!), leaves from trees, fallen branches from a summer storm
  • Alban Elued / September 21st: Colors: Gold, tan, browns, orange.  Items: Pumpkins, bounty from the garden, acorns, fall leaves in full bloom, nuts, corn, etc.
  • Samhuinn / November 1st: Colors: deep reds, browns, deep orange.  Items: Pumpkins, brown leaves, spirit cakes

 

Elemental Altars

In addition to my main altar, I’ve found it really beneficial to have elemental shrines in various parts of my house–these shrines are specifically placed to bring the right kinds of energies to the right kinds of spaces.  Some of these shrines are more obviously shrine/altar-like than others.  Two of them may not even be recognizable as shrines, but they still are :).

Air/Fire Altar

Air/Fire Shrine

Air/fire altar

Air/fire Shrine

This altar is above the mantle in our greatroom; the whole room is very air and fire based (its very open and light, and painted red with a fireplace).  This is also where I do a lot of my academic work (writing, research, teaching, grading) and so fire and air are the two elemental qualities that are the most important to that work.  If I get burnt out, I do retreat to the earth room (where my main altar is) on occasion :).

Earth Altar

Earth Shrine

Earth Altar - close-up

Earth Shrine – close-up

This is the earth shrine, and it sits in our kitchen.  The kitchen, to me, has the most earthy energy of the house (its also partially underground, and made of stone and wood), and I wanted to bring even more good earthy energy there.  Not everyone would recognize this as an shrine (they might see it as just a rock collection–and its both!)  A lot of these stones we found in Indiana, North Dakota, or Pennsylvania.

Water altar

Water altar

This is my water shrine.  About a year and a half ago, I became very dedicated to the element of water after participating in a water-focused ritual at the OBOD East Coast Gathering 2011 and receiving a gift of water from Iona, the Isle of Druids, from a fellow OBOD member.  At that point, I started collecting water wherever I went….and now I have quite a collection!  I have this sitting on a small shelf in my art studio. While not all of my art is watery, per se, watercolors are my favorite media, and I do a lot of painting.

I also have an elemental balance shrine, with all four elements.

Elemental balance altar

Elemental balance altar

Altars of Reverence/Remembrance

I also maintain a spirit and ancestor altar in my home.  This altar honors my past ancestors (ancestors of blood, ancestors of the land, and ancestors of my spiritual tradition) as well as my spirit guides.  I created a painting of spirit guides and also have photos of my ancestors.  That altar is a bit private, so I’m not showing a photo of it.

 

Three Representations of Druidry: Acorn, Awen, and Stone December 21, 2012

I went to a natural gift making workshop (which I will blog about sometime soon) and got into a conversation about druidry with one of my fellow workshop participants.  Turns out, she runs a local TV show called “Faith” and she asked me to come in and talk about Druidry for her show in an upcoming episode.  I find it a bit nerve-wracking and intimidating, mainly because of how open and “out” the show is but also because I really want to try to represent the diversity of druidry accurately.  But I still agreed to do it because its also a great opportunity to build tolerance and understanding in our community, especially among other people of diverse faiths. And I generally don’t think these kinds of opportunities come along very often, and when they do, we really ought to take them.
One of the things she asked me to do was to bring three things that symbolize druidry.  These will be used in the show as discussion points.  I spent time discussing the three items with members of both of my druid orders (AODA and OBOD) and I settled on three things: an acorn, an awen, and a stone.  I am listing each here with their connections to the druidic spiritual tradition:

An Acorn. Acorns have a deep and rich symbolism in druidry.  As I’ve written about in other blog posts, druid literally can be translated as “oak knowledge” and the oak is a symbol of druidry.  Oak knowledge traditionally dealt with the survival of the Celtic people, and while that is still true, it can also be more broad.  So we might see “Oak knowledge” referring to knowledge of growing and harvesting foods organically, foraging and harvesting from the wild, and knowledge of sustainability and permaculture.   But oak knowledge can also include knowledge of stories, myths, and spiritual traditions of the ancients, the druid revival and modern druid era.  Because druidry is a living religion/spiritual path, we might also see oak knowledge as our understanding of how nature can help us solve our substantial challenges in the 21st century.

The acorn, as a seed, is also a symbol of growth and unlimited potential.  The acorn, in its dormant state, reminds us that we, too need periods of rest/dormancy and periods of growth.  We, too, must look to the oak and understand the importance of living within the seasons, with grace and harmony.   The acorn teaches us about our own potential–how one acorn can grow into a massive oak and seed a whole forest.  The oak tree is only partially seen–the massive root system of an oak tree is as tall and wide as the tree itself.  This teaches us that there is much to living and our spiritual experiences that we can’t see, and that even though the roots can’t be seen, we can see their influence.

The power of an acorn (judgment from the Tarot of Trees)

The power of an acorn (judgment from the Tarot of Trees)

An Awen Symbol.  Awen, a Welsh word, describes the spark of creative or divine inspiration or illumination.  Awen is what sparks an idea and gives it form.  The ancient bards drew upon Awen in the process of composing their beautiful stories and music.  Today, we druids embrace creativity as part of our spiritual path–the creative arts: music, dance, song, painting, woodworking, baking, crafting, knitting–so many of these are critical to living a happy and fulfilled life.  Awen is so important to druids that many of us use the Awen symbol as our primary symbol of druidry.

The awen, with its three rays of light, also reminds us of the importance of threes–a sacred number in druidry.  We have the three realms: land, sea, and sky (or middle world, upper world, under world).  We have three grades or ways of studying/experiencing druidry: the bard, the ovate, and the druid.  We have the triads, which were ancient Celtic laws and bits of wisdom expressed in threes.  A triad might be as simple as: Three ways of growing: growing food for nourishment, growing in age as time passes, and growing yourself through knowledge and experience.  Or three things that illuminate every darkness: nature, knowledge, truth.

Awen pendant I made

Awen pendant I made

A stone from our grove’s circle.  Stones are also central to druidry, we can look back in our tradition’s history to the root of druidry’s inspiration–the ancient druids and their stone structures.  The importance of historical sites and modern stone circles (such as the one our own grove celebrates in) teach us the importance of understanding our history.  Stone circles today give us a sense of community; as a grove, we meet within the circle to celebrate the passing of the wheel of the year, to welcome new members of our order through initiation, and to seek peace, meditation, and communion with nature.  And stone circles are being recognized as important points for earth-based spirituality, such as the recent press that the Air Force Academy built for its cadets. A stone from our circle here in South-East Michigan also represents our connection to and reverence of the local land and her unique history.    We can also talk about the stone representing earth, and then think about the four elements that druidry often emphasizes: earth, air, fire, water, and the importance of balancing between those different energies.

Stones in our grove at the equinox

Stones in our grove at the equinox

I think these three objects clearly represent druidry (at least, druid traditions growing out of revival druidry).  But I also wanted to present some of the other ideas that people had raised, because they were also excellent ideas:

Myself. Druidry is a living, evolving tradition that seeks inspiration from the past without being bound to it.  Its also very unique to teach individual, and is truly a personal path, where each of us walks his or her own path, while being bound through our mutual respect of the living earth and our broader community.

My crane bag. The crane bag is a druid’s working tool, and something that many druids put together to keep all their various magical and mundane tools in.  I’ve blogged about crane bags here.

Mistletoe.  Mistletoe is mentioned in some of the ancient Roman writings concerning a druid, specifically, a group of druids in white robes with a silver sickle knife cutting mistletoe growing from an oak in the moonlight.  So this is an image that is important to many druids (and is something we usually incorporate into our Yule ritual). The OBOD’s Mistletoe Foundation is focused on understanding mistletoe in relationship to druidry, to preserving it, and to studying it.  Mistletoe, as an herb, can also teach us about herbal lore, which is yet another important aspect of druidry.

What other symbols of druidry would you include, blog readers?

 

Druidry and the Environment June 22, 2011

Someone on the AODA listserv put out a call for people to talk about their connection between druidry and environmentalism. It was a good experience to think, and articulate, my own thoughts on the issue.  I thought I’d share the questions–and my answers–here. 

1. Describe your spiritual path?
I am an animist druid. I see my spiritual path as being one of closeness and understanding the interconnectivity of all things. My work involves healing of the land, listening to the spirits, and protecting and celebrating all things.
Everything that I do, I do as a druid. I don’t see my life, my career, my artistic pursuits, or anything else as separate. When I go and teach in a classroom or when I sit quietly by the stream, everything is druidic. Because I hold myself up to this standard, it means that I am constantly working to better myself and live up to the principles that define my spiritual beliefs.

2. Describe your connection to the earth on both a physical and a spiritual level.
I am very connected to the land, both on a spiritual and physical level. I am gifted with the ability to sense the land in multiple ways and to interact with spirit guides and spirits of the land that help me better understand this connection. When I see the land suffering, I suffer. Sometimes I reach out and give healing energy. Sometimes, the land heals me. In both cases, we learn and grow from the experience.
3. Did you feel this level of connection to the earth and the environment before you began following your current path?
Yes and no. I have always been connected to the land, especially growing up in the forested mountains. This is where I spent my time, and where I learned my most valuable lessons. Even as a child, I would speak to the trees—and they would speak back. Since becoming a druid about six years ago, I have learned more about this gift and how to use it. My senses have deepened since undergoing druidic training, particularly discursive mediation and energy work.
4. Since starting your current path, how has your view of nature changed.
I think I understand the complexities and interconnectedness much better than I used to. I used to want to protect the land, and have always been an environmentalist. But it wasn’t until I worked closely with healing the land, hearing the stories of the lost and forgotten forests, and sharing these stories with others that I truly understood environmentalism and protection on a spiritual level. With this knowledge, however, comes great responsibility. The desire to protect and preserve has never been stronger.
5. Do you consider an environmentalist?
Yes. Absolutely. I don’t see my environmentalism as separate from my druidic path. I actually find this question kind of silly, because I don’t really think that someone can call themselves a druid, or walk any pagan/earth-based spirituality and not be an environmentalist. Or if they are, they are likely fooling themselves.
6. What pro-environment things do you do (i.e. recycling, etc)
I do everything in my power to reduce my impact on the planet and to give back, locally and internationally. I have made radical lifestyle changes to support this goal.
1) I try to eat a locally-based, vegetarian diet, that reduces my consumption, carbon footprint, and supports local sustainable agriculture.
2) I grow my own food (and have just started doing this, but am learning)
3) I compost and reduce my waste output. We now throw away less than one garbage bag every two weeks (for a family of 2).
4) I make all of my own soaps and detergents from naturally-based materials. I teach others how to make them.
5) I reduce the amount of travel and trips; we own two fuel efficient vehicles (one hybrid, one 40 mpg), I carpool.
6) We have made various home improvements to reduce our overall energy consumption and making our home more efficient.
7) I write letters daily to representatives, local papers, etc. on issues of environmental concern.
8) I use sustainable feminine hygiene products.
9) I shop exclusively at second-hand stores and yard sales and work hard to ensure that if I can purchase it used, I will do so. There are a few things I must buy new, but not that much!
10) For my teaching, I do not use textbooks, but rather make all materials digitally available. I ask students to submit their work digitally to avoid producing excess paper waste (and quite a bit can add up as the semester progresses!)
11) I can my own food and practice other food preservation techniques (root cellaring)
12) I participate in local cleanups and pick up trash in forests.
13) I financially support a number of environmental organizations.
14) I post environmentally-supportive material to my Facebook account and share it with family and friends to help raise awareness on these issues.
15) I will gladly learn, and gladly teach, and work hard to educate others about their own environmental impact.

7. What sort of things would you like to do but don’t?

I would like to live a completely sustainable life. Right now in America, to do this seems to require an inordinate amount of funds (solar power panels, expensive vehicles, etc.). It is also nearly impossible due to cultural conventions and norms (such as the lack of good public transportation, etc.). I wanted to get a car I could convert to a greasecar—the car manufacturers don’t produce cars that allow you to do so. I wanted to install a composing toilet in my house—the township won’t allow it. If you’ve ever read the book, “Everything I do is Illegal: War Stories from the Food Front (found on amazon) you’ll understand what better what I’m talking about. Most of what I feel I can’t do has little to do with me and my desire, and more to do with larger social systems that are in place to encourage and facilitate our unsustainable way of life.

Everything in our culture is geared to be used and thrown away, and while some things are easy, others are way harder. The worst thing is that “green” has become a new consumerist mindset—but it still doesn’t actually solve the problem. As long as we are still buying way more than we need, it doesn’t matter if its green or not.

So I think my limitations have less to do with my own desire and more to do with a larger cultural tradition that is incredibly difficult to escape. At the same time, I’m also aware of my own shortcomings.

8. How does that ideology fit with your spiritually?
I work as hard as I can at what I can, as a druid and human being, and live as ethically as I can (and in my mind, ethics have to do with how we treat the earth and each other). And what I can’t do now, I work to change on a larger level, and support systems of change (like supporting local, sustainable food producers).
9. What role should Druid play in the environmental activism?
The better question is what role shouldn’t druids play? I think we need to lbe the change we want to see in others. I think we need to be at the forefront of this change, and continually push to improve our own lives, and the lives of everyone else on this planet, human or not. In animism, we talk about non-human persons and their rights. This is very applicable here. I don’t want to live at the expense of other lives.
As I said earlier, I am baffled and shocked by those who claim to be following an earth-centered tradition and do nothing to protect it. I couldn’t live with myself without doing something to help—our planet is in pain, and every day with every action, humans cause more of it.

At the very local level, I am currently cleaning up a garbage dump in the forest behind my house. I’m removing and recycling all materials that can, re-purposing what can, and otherwise doing what I can to help. I like this work because it is tangible and I can physically see the difference. But then, I still have another 30 – 40 feet of trash to get through… ☺.