Let Go And Let Goddess/God

autumn mist

Samhain is upon us and I have been feeling strongly the energies of release this year. At this festival, we think about our connections to the Ancestors and to all those we have loved in this life who have now passed over. I have been moving through my own grieving process having lost my dad a couple of years ago. It has been a long and difficult journey but there comes a point when we arrive at a place of acceptance within ourselves. Letting go of those who mean so much to us has its own time span; it is something that cannot be forced or faked; we must feel those painful feelings of loss that the absence of loved ones can bring. Eventually, something shifts. It is not that we ever let go completely, for those dear ones are never very far away, however, there does come a moment when we can surrender up our grief, handing it tenderly over to the Divine. As the trees prepare to shed, I feel that I find myself willing to offer up my own grief in order to move on.

Samhain is a gateway, a door to be walked through between two places. Physical death is a threshold between one state of existence and another; we can grasp the truth of this in a psychological sense through the many experiences of our lives when we are confronted with endings. Of course, not all ending are unwelcome; some are easier to move through but all endings bring us to that threshold and, to truly pass through it, we must eventually surrender what was, in order to embrace the potential of what will be.autumn branches

I recently bought myself a decorative gift box – I had read somewhere the idea of having a ‘Let go and Let Goddess/God’ box. This would be a container where I could place all those issues or situations in my life that I was holding on to, to the detriment of moving on. I would write on slips of paper, anything that I felt I was struggling to release. This very simple act of writing down and placing inside the box with the intension of giving over to the Divine, has been for me a wonderfully helpful experience. It has felt like an emotional fist inside me – my rigid psychological grip around all those hurts and struggle – has been relaxed and opened, transformed into a hand ready to receive.

Surrender is intimately linked to our capacity to trust. When we accept and let go, we place our trust in the Divine, in ourselves, in life and in the healing power of Divine Grace. It is a powerfully magical act that brings with it an enormous sense of peace and relief. Not only that, it is the first step that we take over the threshold and into another life .We leave behind what needs to be shed but we take with us the wisdom and the hope that wisdom brings.autumn-threshold

Samhain has many layers. One of them is undoubtedly the pain of loss and grief – the Dark Goddess and God with scythe in hand whose initiations can leave us feeling like our entire lives have been dismantled. But this is only a part of the process. For me, the deepest mysteries of this festival are found in the profound transformation that comes at the moment of surrender. The dark expressions of the Divine that brings us our most challenging life experiences, soften into the deepest compassion at the moment of true release. It is at that moment that we can fully understand the paradox that each ending is in fact a new beginning.

I dream of my dad often and feel his love as strongly as ever but I now realise that I can let go of the pain and loss, and in doing so, embrace the love. Loss is like the alchemist’s alembic; it holds us within its often unbearable intensity until we are distilled into a more potent version of ourselves. It is the Goddess’ cauldron that we all enter, surrendering to her all that we are in order to become all that we could be. As I cross over the threshold this Samhain – as I let go; as I trust in the power of release – the sweet, dark, softening peace of surrender will hold me.

Are You Your Biggest Fan


Previously, I have written about the Base and Sacral Chakras and their gifts of grounding and joyful grace and continue now with a short exploration of the Solar Plexus Chakra.

The Solar Plexus Chakra, as its name suggests, can be likened to the body’s engine room. As the sun fuels life on our beautiful planet, this chakra enables us to metabolise our food into energy; it also aids us in taking our thoughts and turning these into action. It is a wonderful yellow in colour, our very own sun at the centre of our body and being.

As an energy centre that deals with action, it is also a place where both our fears and our courage reside. We all know that feeling of agitation or butterflies in our solar plexus as we engage with our anxieties or desires. The Solar Plexus Chakra teaches us that we can move through these fears with positive action, and in doing so, we build our courage and confidence in the process.

This Chakra has held the greatest challenges for me. I have long wrestled with my confidence and my fears of not being good enough. This in turn has often made it very difficult to act. When we fear we will fail; when we let our lack of confidence prevent us from even trying, the light of our inner sun is diminished and we rob the world of our talents and potential to serve and contribute. When this becomes a habit, it can rob us of our energy and joy too. We are beings in a material world and positive action is key to materialising our visions and plans. In short, we all need to take risks and to act in the world if we are to truly grow and learn.

I have slowly and painfully realised on my journey with this energy centre, that’ feeling the fear and doing it anyway’, as the saying goes, is a far less damaging option that retreating from it.sunflower closeup

In working with this Chakra, I noticed how difficult it was for me to support and encourage myself. Like many, I had internalised this hyper-critical voice that denigrated my efforts. I felt the need to act but this was so often undermined by my rather hateful and mean-spirited inner critic. There have been so many times in my life when I have walked away from challenges that would have enriched me and built my confidence because I convinced myself there would be no point. This conflict between our inner judge and our urge to act can be utterly paralysing, demoralising and de-energising. It can lead to depression, apathy and a lack of inspiration; it can feel as if the light has gone out in our life.

This chakra flourishes when we decide to allow ourselves to shine. Many of us were brought up to believe that expressing our talents was tantamount to ‘showing off’ and therefore inherently negative. Humility is a noble virtue but not if it robs the world of your divinely gifted talents. I love to see others shine; it is so wonderful to witness people deeply connected to their life path and sharing this with the world and I always feel good when I encourage others. Why wouldn’t I do the same for myself? The world needs us to express and act on our gifts; it enables beautiful, healing, inspiring, life-changing things to be birthed into the world. We owe this to ourselves and each other.


It is vital that we all allow ourselves to shine and to encourage others to do the same by showing appreciation, by praising, by bearing witness to our unique and glorious selves. We each need to be our own biggest fan! When we do this for ourselves we can take joy in our actions, we can back ourselves to take the risks that are needed to move forward, and we can encourage ourselves to recover when we fall. We can also rid ourselves of petty envy and jealousy; let go of the ‘compare and despair’ mentality that can lead us to be less than supportive of each other. It is interesting that the Solar Plexus Chakra resides between the Sacral and the Heart Chakras. For me, this suggests that our actions flourish best when they work in tandem with pleasure, playfulness and creativity (Sacral) along with love, compassion and joy (Heart). When we express these qualities in our actions with self and other, everyone benefits.

This energy centre teaches that we are all more than enough as we are; children of the Divine; blazing stars in the body of the Universe. So, let that sun in your tummy glow brightly – let it warm and energise your body, heart, mind and spirit. Be your own biggest fan and shine!

Life Is A Dance

life is a danceMy previous post was about the importance of grounding and of my love of the Chakra system; of how the Root Chakra teaches us to feel ourselves as embodied beings. As important as it is to feel ourselves steady as a rock, it is equally important not to allow our beings to become set in stone. We need to be rooted but we also need to experience flexibility and motion, physically in the movement of our bodies but also in our emotional, mental and spiritual expression.

The Root Chakra is ruled by the element of earth, it has weight and density. The Sacral Chakra however, is ruled by water; it teaches us about the value of flow. When this chakra is functioning healthily, we can move through life with ease and grace, riding the currents, adapting our course without resistance, embracing the changes with faith and optimism. We feel our emotions moving through and out of us, thereby, never overwhelming us as they might if we held them tightly within us. When water becomes trapped, it can become stagnant and deadly to us; it is the same with our emotions – if we repress, suppress, or become rigidly fixated and stuck, our emotions can cause us a great deal of pain and even illness.flexible Just as our bodies need flexibility for ease of movement, so do our minds and emotions. Stiffening on any level limits our experience and increases tension within our beings; to stay flexible we have to keep moving. Being flexible and open allows for an exchange between us and the world that can shift us out of our stasis; there is a circuit set up between us and other which challenges and exposes us to new ideas and ways to be. It is the place of relationship and union, a place where we allow the connection with life to transform us.

Going with the flow demands a certain level of trust in life and self. Our fears can cause us to stiffen and resist just at the point life is asking us to relax and surrender to the rush. It is no accident to me that the sacral chakra is also the place of our child-like joy and the seat of sensual pleasure. There have been many times in my life when I have frozen myself out with the fear of ‘what if’ rather than trusting in the direction my life is taking me. When you start to engage with your adaptability in the face of change, it is a real joy and a confidence boost, and makes the transient nature of life more of an adventure than a struggle. We are reminded to draw upon our child-like innocence and excitement about life, where each day is a new adventure and we feel ourselves at home in the dance of the day to day.

lovely_dolphinstangoThis chakra is also the place of our creativity. We need that circuit of exchange with the world to feed our creative spark. We cannot hold on to our creations, they must be shared with the world; once again that circulating current between within and without must be honoured. If we hold onto our creativity, if we don’t express it because of fear or lack of confidence, then we often find that it starts to wither. Little can survive in stagnancy; we can’t thrive in a stranglehold.

If you feel stuck, if you are joyless and feel resistance straining within you, try one simple technique – move! Move your body: get up and dance; go for a walk, a run, a swim. Move your emotions: share an intimate moment with someone you love; make love: listen to music that moves you, or watch a movie that stirs you. Move you mind: read a book; have a discussion. Move your Spirit: perform a ritual, chant, pray, speak of all that you are grateful for today.

We are not designed to stay still. Even in our moments of deep meditation, huge shifts are bubbling away in our deepest core; our cells constantly dying and being reborn.

Make a promise to yourself to approach your life with trust, ease and grace. Life is a dance.what am i grateful for today in the sand


Back Down To Earth


Nature never hurries. Atom by atom, little by little she achieves her work. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you noticed how our perception of time directly affects how much time we have? When you have a million things on the go and a ‘to do’ list that seems endless, observe that when you respond to the situation with a sense of panic or rush, time starts to whiz by alarmingly fast. Conversely, when we relax and go slow, time slows too and we get things done with less effort. If you don’t believe me, try it.

Slowing down and relaxing into the moment is a magical process. As Pagans, we come to know the value of grounding – our spirituality teaches us the importance of feeling the tap root of our body and psyche secure within the earth. Sometimes we when start to explore spirituality we can become overly enchanted by flights into spirit or the otherworld; we can find ourselves working solely in our heads, reading and thinking about a path but not actually committing to the work of manifesting that path in our lives. Earth spirituality reminds us we are matter; we exist within a material universe that requires that we feel the value of gravity, the way it shapes and strengthens us. It encourages us to celebrate and embrace the limitations and boundaries of earthly life and to recognise that all those exciting flights of spirit and inspirational thought can only benefit ourselves and others when we ground and manifest them here in the material realm.the-redwoods-in-yosemite-national-park

A great part of an Earth based path is learning to perceive energy. We do this by tuning in to our environment and ourselves. Some energies are light and have a faster frequency, others have a greater density and are slower moving – the energy of a dragonfly feels very different to a boulder on the beach. As we develop sensitivity to these differences, we can also begin to sense the energy frequencies of our own being. I am a huge fan of the chakra system because it understands that the various levels of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual makeup are composed of energy centres resonating at different speeds, each with its own qualities and purpose but all working together as (hopefully) a healthy, functioning whole. No one centre is more or less important than any other and to place too much of a focus on one or two at the expense of the others can bring us some challenges and even impact on our health. Balance is key.

rooted photo

To go back to our earlier example of being stuck in our heads, we know that thought resonates to a faster frequency. We don’t experience it as having the same limitations or boundaries that our physical bodies are subject too. However, if we spend too much time in our heads without tending our physical needs, an imbalance will occur – we cannot live by thought alone, we need food, water, exercise, cuddles, a roof over our heads… In short, we need to ground ourselves in Mother Earth and our bodies; feel our roots within her, enjoying the soil’s denser, slower energy, allowing it to steady and energise us.

The root chakra – Muladhara – is the place within us that has an extraordinary and magical capacity to take our creativity and manifest it here in the material realm. It is not afraid to take it slow because it has stamina, strength and endurance – it knows the patient power of consistency. It takes one look at our ‘to do’ lists, shrugs and goes about them one simple step at a time, utterly rooted in the present moment, no rush, no panic.

As one chakra opens us to the next, being thoroughly grounded in the root can then lead us to the ease of movement, flow and flexibility that comes with the second chakra, a centre of joy and creativity. As we become rooted in our bodies and the earth – as we feel at home in the moment – we can then explore the uncertainty of change, learning to respond to its ebb and flow with grace and joy. It is so much harder to do this without our tap-root deeply secured.roots

When you feel stressed, rushed and overworked, slow down; enjoy being in your body, nurture it, feed it, give it pleasure, let it rest, feel the worry drain into the earth and watch as it transforms into peace and renewed strength.

Remember, when you ground, time is always on your side.

Aphrodite – Lady of Sweetness


I am starting my mini-series about the deities that I currently honour with a goddess who I have known about all my life but only recently felt compelled to build a relationship with.  Given that I have been coping with grief and loss for many months, Aphrodite’s bright, vibrant energy felt very attractive to me, a much needed balance to my own journey through Persephone’s shadows.

As I began to read about her, it struck me how much in the popular imagination of our culture, that her deeper mysteries and power have been rather reduced. She is often depicted as a sex kitten, which is not to say she doesn’t have her flirtatious, promiscuous moments, but as a goddess of love, passion, union and sex, this rather shallow interpretation minimizes the depth and impact of all she represents. After all, love and sex can initiate our most profound, transformative experiences.  Aphrodite is the energy in nature that draws things into union – a connecting force; through her we build relationship not only with lovers, but all the other things in our life that draw passion and love from us – be it our life’s work, nature, our families, our creativity. She teaches us that such unions of passion and love change us, challenge us and work on us. Anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship will know that in our lover’s eyes we ultimately find ourselves – the very best of who we are but also our shadow. Through union with another, we are offered the opportunity to not only know our partners more intimately but, in the process, learn more about ourselves; this can been the best of journeys and the most painful but it will never leave us the same – it is just not meant to.



It has been of great interest to me that Aphrodite and Persephone have mythic connections.  They share a love of Adonis – after his death he lives part of the year in the underworld with Persephone and part in the land of the living with Aphrodite. They are also both key players in the story of Psyche and Eros. Psyche is tested by Aphrodite, given almost impossible tasks to prove her worthiness for the love of Aphrodite’s son, who himself is also a god of love. Psyche translates as ‘breathe’ and can be understood in the deeper sense as ‘soul’. This feels key to me with regard to Aphrodite’s more profound mysteries – the story of Psyche seems to suggest the soul’s growth and transformation through its encounter with love. Psyche’s trials on her journey to be reunited with Eros, takes her to the Underworld – Persephone’s realm ; love with all its pleasures and joys, undoubtedly has its shadow side, and we often meet these head on in our relationships: jealousy, betrayal and conflict. Like Psyche, our naivety about love and ourselves is burnt away in the crucible of our emotions, and the most direct and powerful of arenas for this transformation to manifest is our relationships with others.

This link between Aphrodite and Persephone resonates with the earlier Sumerian mythology of Inanna and her sister Ereshkigal . Inanna was a goddess of fertility, love, lust and battle, and like Aphrodite was associated with the planet Venus, as morning and evening star. Although the Classical Aphrodite was only associated with love, we can see echoes of Inanna in her connection to the God of War, Ares.  Inanna descends to the Underworld realm of her sister Ereshkigal and is kept prisoner there. Like the Persephone/Aphrodite/Adonis myth, we see the seasonal story enacted, but it also says much about what happens when love is lost to us or our assumptions about love are dismantled. When love turns sour, or love is denied us through rejection, conflict or even bereavement, we too must engage with our own emotional descent.  This journey, although challenging, potentially deepens not only our understanding about love but our ability to love in a more profound and authentic way.

aphrodite roses1


When we examine the power of love to impact upon our very souls, Aphrodite’s ‘Sex Kitten’ image really doesn’t do her justice. Having said this, she is an essentially joyful goddess – love may bring us to our knees on occasions but it also brings us our happiest moments. For me, she is key to our creativity. As a goddess of attraction and union, she opens us to life and experience. When we look through her eyes, we are struck by the beauty not only of our beloved but of the world. Her energy is expansive, it is hard to contain it – love flows outward, to be miserly in its expression means that it shrivels and dies. Aphrodite knows that energy functions in exchange –the more we give, the more we have. She is a goddess that heals the split between body and spirit because for her there is no separation; through the sensual pleasures of the body and the intense emotional  connection that sex can bring, she affords us the opportunity to ground ourselves in the world  and in our bodies in the most joyful and energising ways.

Born from the foam, she is also a Goddess of the ocean and as fishermen once prayed to her to guide them through choppy seas to safe harbour, she can protect and navigate us through the turbulent waters of our emotions. I am lucky enough to live merely feet from the ocean and I watch over Aphrodite’s waters every day. I am struck by how relentlessly changing they are, very rarely truly flat calm. But Aphrodite’s numerous ancient epithets had her as Lady of Safe Harbour, and through her connection to Venus, Goddess of Gardens, she can bring us to a place of peaceful sanctuary.


These last few weeks have seen Venus as the evening star.  I have watched her from my balcony shining above the sea as the sun is setting. She is stunningly beautiful and bright. As evening star, we watch her set below the horizon on her Underworld journey and we are reminded of our capacity to hold onto hope in our darkest times. As the morning star, she seemingly rises up from the earth, returning from the Underworld and teaching us of renewal. These settings and risings can remind us about the cycles of love, the way it can renew, burn fiercely, die back , then renew again, each of these emotional states a gift that can deepen our understanding of who we are and how we relate.

Aphrodite is both profound love and passion, and the horniest sex – she doesn’t see the separation between these. She can bring flippant encounters that are pleasurable but will never be lasting, but she truly comes into her own in our deepest love matches. The Greeks had her as both Aphrodite Urania, the starry goddess of Spiritual Love and Aphrodite Pandemos, earthy, goddess of the masses: Aphrodite contains these seemingly contradictory states within her and confounds all our most limiting assumptions about love.

She is also supremely helpful in teaching us how to love ourselves. It may be a cliché to say it but we love others more effectively, and perhaps less painfully, when we have a healthy sense of self-appreciation.  Aphrodite can teach us to take tender loving care of ourselves and to love and take pleasure in our bodies and beings; she can also encourage us to enjoy life and its pleasures, to revel in ourselves and the things that bring us joy.

Aphrodite came to Classical Greece via Cypress. The Cypriot Aphrodite was a much more rounded and complex goddess who, for me, is closest to how I experience her. She is essentially life-affirming; demanding that we engage with it, be touched, moved and changed by it. When we hammer up boards to keep life out, she will come like a tsunami to break our defences but when we embrace her fully and openly, we are rewarded with sweetness, depth, joy and transformation.  She is a garden in blossom, a sun-filled sea, an unforgettable kiss; she is every moment that reminds you how grateful you are to be alive; she is the flower that opens to the bee.







Deity, Gender and the Problems of Essentialism


Before I post about the individual deities that I work with, I want to write a little about the problematic area of deity and gender. As explained in my previous post, I view personified deity as aspects of nature and the cosmos. One of the most liberating attractions of modern Paganism is that it offers us images of the Divine Feminine. Female images of ‘God’ have been woefully lacking in our culture for hundreds of years and this has undoubtedly had a negative impact for both women and men. Neopaganism, and particularly the modern Goddess movement, has seen a resurgence in the honouring of the Divine Feminine in a variety of forms. Being able to see oneself reflected in the Divine has been an immensely empowering experience for women, one which has for countless years been taken for granted by men. It is extraordinary to me that when we say the word ‘god’, the majority of us will automatically assume that figure to be male. Even if we haven’t been raised in an Abrahamic faith, the assumption is so deep rooted in our culture, that even the most secular of us will still perceive God as male.

Embracing the notion of a Goddess has enabled both men and women to challenge the restrictive essentialism that is entrenched in our societies, which can only be a good thing for all of us, but I recognise that there are problems when we attempt to determine what defines and differentiates the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine. One issue is that in trying to explain what these are, we inadvertently slip back into essentialist notions of gender. Many will respond by saying that there is a difference between gender – which is a cultural construction – and wider concepts of Goddess and God. This might be so, but a lot of the time it seems gender essentialism is still hard to shift when we attribute qualities to male and female faces of the Divine.

If I were a pure Pantheist, this wouldn’t be a problem for me because the Cosmos as Divine energy in action would be too vast, mysterious and complex to place a human face upon. However, I am drawn to work with individual goddesses and gods, so how do I approach the tricky issue of gender and deity personification?

I tend to work with deities as archetypes. When I engage with a particular deity, I am attempting to contact the energies of that archetype so that I can understand them better and express them more positively in my life. In my next post I will write in more detail about my relationship with Aphrodite, but for now, if we say that Aphrodite’s energies are love, connection, union, attraction, the first thing we might ask ourselves is, are these things specifically male or female in nature? Culture has given them a female face in the form of the goddess Aphrodite but if I am honest, I would say that these energies, for me, transcend gender. To me, the energy of the archetype is ‘pure’;  when we approach and attempt to engage with it, we bring to it all our own cultural conditioning. We can tend to view the archetype with a somewhat distorted lens. Aphrodite is a good case in point. She is often viewed as a coquettish sex kitten, which is a woefully inadequate perception of a deity of love and passion (as anyone of us who has been in love will attest). What we see in this image is the distorting of a powerful archetype that says more about a culture’s attitudes towards its female members (Classical Greek Society was notoriously misogynistic!) than it does about the full, flowering power of that archetype. Part of the joy and challenge of working with deities is that we each bring our cultural distortions to the table; working with deity is an opportunity to strip these away and see ourselves and the archetype more honestly.


Another example might be useful.  Kuan Yin is a Buddhist bodhisattva who has also been embraced by many Neopagans as a Goddess of Compassion, Mercy and Kindness. For many throughout the Far East, Kuan Yin is perceived as female, however, Avalokitesvara is her male form, and although not as popular as her female manifestation, is still honoured.

This fascinates me because it suggests that the qualities that Kuan Yin embodies – Compassion, Mercy and Kindness – are here associated with both Male and Female figures, which further suggests that the qualities themselves are of greater importance than what personification we clothe those qualities with. I suspect that there will be many people who connect with those qualities more easily via a female form (and no doubt a little essentialism has influenced this – the gentle energy of this archetype being more in keeping with many people’s assumptions about women’s ‘innate’ being). However, we are all capable of compassion, regardless of gender, and that we connect with this energy is more important, ultimately, than the face we choose to give it.


Having said this, I do recognise that there is a good deal of rebalancing that needs to be achieved, so giving expression to goddess forms is vitally important for challenging gender assumptions. However, we have to guard against a further essentialism by valuing the image over the quality. For me, the quality or energy of the archetype is central; what personification I choose to clothe that quality with is deeply personal. Basically, I have chosen the forms that, for me, make the most direct and potent connection.

With regard to Aphrodite, I choose to see her as a goddess but she could just as easily be perceived as male in form. I know this because I see her and experience her through my partner (who is a man). For me, her energy is not confined by gender. This being said, I am also aware that as I work with her as a female image, as I challenge the sex kitten image and discover a deeper and richer expression, I am in some way liberating myself as a women from so much of the misogyny that underpins our attitudes to female sexuality.

I will now follow with some posts about those very faces of the Divine that draw, challenge and inspire me the most…

What is Deity to Me?


Over time, I have become less and less concerned with spiritual labels. It’s not that I don’t think them useful but I have come to believe that we should remain as flexible and open in our definitions as possible. Fundamentalism is a frightening and limiting view to me. I am of the opinion that how we perceive and relate to the Divine is a very personal thing and will differ from person to person. Hearing others speak of how they relate to deity is fascinating; I might not agree with that person’s approach but I feel my own experience is enriched in the sharing. And so in this spirit, I will offer my own current take on the Divine. Having said labels are unimportant, I am now going to reel out some of my own; however, I am aware that all of these are subject to change as I walk my spiritual path.

I consider myself a Pagan and essentially a Pantheist – that is, I believe that the Divine is present in the Cosmos, in fact, IS the Cosmos and exists in all life-forms, both animate and inanimate. These days, I feel that I am probably a Panentheist in the sense that my Pantheism is also open to the possibility that there is something beyond the material universe, a spiritual force that transcends it whilst also being imminent within all existence, much in the way that Hindus might view Brahman. Once again, like Hindus, I believe that the Cosmos functions through the dynamic interplay between the complimentary forces of the Goddess and God, although I don’t understand these in terms of gender, more in the way certain energies – for instance creation and destruction – move in an endless dance that fuels life.

Awen RaysMy Pantheistic/Panentheistic sensibilities are the broad stroke, that is, they are a view of the Divine that for me cannot be contained or fully understood by my limited consciousness – the Divine at this level is a vast and unknowable mystery, one that inspires but is a little difficult to get to know in a human way. I get a little closer when I start to see this force as Goddess and God, but for me, it begins to get a lot more up close and personal when I view these forces in their expression of multiple goddesses and gods. To clarify, the Cosmos is a unified whole made up of a myriad of natural forces; the gods and goddesses are facets of that Divine whole. I recently heard someone refer to them as lenses that focus in on aspects of the Divine whole.  I seek my most intimate connection to deity through selected lenses, that is, through particular goddesses and gods. These deities are aspects of nature and by extension, human culture. I work with these as archetypes (more on this later).

By now, some of you will recognise that I am a ‘soft’ Polytheists. Polytheism is the worship of many gods but there are differences in the Polytheistic approach between what is now termed ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ Polytheism. Hard Polytheists view their deities as distinct, individual beings who exist in their own right and are not seen as merely aspects of an overarching Goddess and God (who in themselves are aspects of an even greater overarching Universal Force).  Soft Polytheists are often accused (mainly by hard polytheists) that they are actually not Polytheists at all but Monotheists ; Monotheism is the belief in a single God (are you still with me!!) and for hard core Polytheists, Pantheist are seen ultimately to honour that Cosmic Oneness, regardless of how they might break it down from there.



This all leads me back to my original point. All the labelling, trying to work out what we believe, can be useful in orientating ourselves and deciding what our spiritual practices will be, but in truth, defining the Divine is not nearly as important as the relationship we build with it. I have discovered that the methods are important only in so much that they have to work for you, they have to make possible an authentic and enriching relationship with the Divine. For instance, if you choose to be a Wiccan but discover that the Wiccan view of the Divine just doesn’t help you to connect, explore another way. Don’t be hemmed in by dogma or rules of any one belief system.

The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating, and so, I will follow with a series of posts that explore the deities that I currently work with and how these impact on my spiritual understanding and practices.

Flag, Flax, Fodder and Frig – The Art of Gratitude

blessings jar

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you; it will be enough. ~ Meister Eckhart

Today I bought myself a Blessings Jar. Actually, it is just an ordinary glass container decorated with a heart shape made up of tiny flowers, but I intend to make it my Blessings Jar. I first heard of this idea via social media and thought it lovely. For those who don’t know, the Blessings Jar is a receptacle for all those things we are grateful for. Each day, we write on slips of paper the blessings we receive. Over time the jar fills and at the end of the year, we literally ‘count our blessings’ reading through the slips and reminding ourselves just how wonderful our life is.

When times are tough, we can lose sight of our gratitude. I have certainly been guilty of this over the last eighteen months. I wrote in my previous post how acceptance is a transformative act; I also think that gratitude can powerfully shift us out of a negative space. When low, we tend to focus on what we lack. Inevitably, what we focus on grows in our perception and we can find ourselves constantly bemoaning our lot. Lack and abundance are coloured by perception, and gratitude moves that perception from a world-view where few of our needs are met, to one where we become aware of just how full and rich our lives are.

The Blessings Jar is a simple but profound daily spiritual practice that can help enormously when coming to terms with loss. Every recognised blessing is a root that grounds us in our present, and when our roots are secure we can flourish.

What follows is an article I wrote for Philip Carr-Gomm’s Blog in May 2013. It talks further of the importance of gratitude. It was written five days before my dad died, and it is interesting for me to now note how the feelings I felt at that point struggled to find expression in the following months. What is reassuring is that despite the journey into grief and depression I have taken since then, the gift of gratitude – just like the gift of acceptance – has been patiently waiting for me to re-engage with it once more. It is never too late to be grateful and when we are, life opens and expands…

morning sun rays

Today has been glorious. Here in Scotland the spring has come late – the winter relentlessly long. I sat with a coffee in the garden, the sun’s heat upon my back; the Ash trees’ buds unfurling in the warmth; abundant pussy willow and blossom signalling that perhaps at last the season has shifted. The greening of the trees in my street and garden has been swift; the last few days has seen that vibrant spring green cut through the grey, and now the sun intensifies its vividness– it is hard not to be filled with joy and hope.

The garden is surrounded by mature trees and feels grove-like. I am always struck by the beauty of sunlight through a canopy of trees; it is a sight that can guarantee to raise the hairs upon my neck. For me, it speaks so readily of those moments when the Divine breaks through the veil of our clouded, distracted thinking, shining a spotlight on the magic of this world, reminding us of our blessings. In Druidry, the three-rayed symbol of the Awen expresses that very moment when the veil of our dulled vision is pierced by those shafts of inspiration. We are rent open and the light pours in; what a moment before had seemed merely two-dimensional is animated with a shining that renews and gives depth to the world.

Watching the sunlight break through the branches of the trees in my garden, I felt an enormous sense of peace and gratitude, and it occurred to me that there is an intimate link between this sense of thankfulness and our sense of wellbeing. It true to say that no matter what struggles befall us, gratitude can go a long way to easing the stresses and burdens of that struggle. I have noticed many times when I have been wrestling with limited finances and the worries that these bring that focusing on the lack only serves to deepen the discomfort. When we consciously choose to count our blessings, the difficulties seem easier to bear.

There is a Pagan Northern Tradition blessing that seems apt in this regard: Flags, Flax, Fodder and Frig. These four small words stand for some mightily important essentials that each of us needs to remain happy and healthy. In modern understanding ‘Flags’ refers to the hearth and home, to the roof over our heads; ‘Flax’, to the clothes upon our backs; ‘Fodder’, to the food on our plates and in our bellies and ‘frig’ to our relationships, sex and human connection. The balance of these in our lives leads to another Northern Tradition concept of ‘Frith’. Frith is more complex a notion than I can’t do justice to here, but it usually translates as ‘peace and prosperity’. When we have our basic human essentials met, it creates a balance that brings peace – this being equally true within the individual as well as wider society, and is therefore something that should be sought after in both.

frey 4

These essentials are not only crucial for our health and wellbeing but they are also the foundation upon which something greater within us can develop. The Humanistic Psychologist Abraham Maslow recognised, through what he termed the Hierarchy of Needs, that when humankind’s most basic needs are met – that is once they have food, shelter and safety – they will endeavour to move towards self-realisation. Maslow understood that this drive to actualise our greatest potential is a fundamental part of our humanity. In other words, as long as we are not starving, homeless or war-torn – consumed wholly by the demands of mere survival – we will come to a point when the urge to express, create, grow and flourish will move in us.

Tragically, many in this world do not have their basic human needs met. Not only does their well-being suffer but they are also denied the right to discover what gift – unique to them – that they possess to offer the world. This is a tragedy not only for the individual but for wider society too. How often has poverty and war robbed us of so much potential, gifts that given the right environment and nurture might have transformed our world for the better? For those of us whose basics are met – even if at times our security might feel a little shaky – it can be good to remind ourselves of all we possess that supports and enriches us.

When we engage with and acknowledge the blessings of our home, having warm clothing and enough food; when we celebrate our relationships and the many sensual pleasures that each day brings, we can find ourselves a little closer to the reality of Frith. Frith is connected to the God Frey, himself a bringer of the sweet things in life – he is the life-giving sunlight and rain that makes the earth fruitful; he is joy and pleasure; love, sex, abundance and joy – the many things in our lives that sustain and enrich us. I have seen him written about as a light-bringer in the sense that he can break through, just like those shafts of sunlight through forest canopies, enlightening our dark spaces. For me, his connection to gratitude is an important one. When we express our thankfulness for what we have – regardless of how humble – he blesses us with that joy, peace and a sense of well-being that gratitude brings.

It can be so easy to lose touch with gratitude when we feel challenged by life. We can become distracted by the everyday minor irritations that we each deal with or – at those moments when major changes overwhelm us – we can feel in some way exiled from life’s sweetness, from the many blessings that we are touched by. When we look a little deeper, even at the most painful times, we can find that we are surrounded by a million unspoken kindnesses; within touching distance of beauty and joy; never far from a gift – be it a word, an act, a sight, that has the potential to open and bless us.



I don’t do it nearly enough but I think a regular practice of consciously giving thanks is a simple but powerfully effective spiritual practice that anyone can do, regardless of religious belief or lack of, and it would seem, regardless of where we might find ourselves.

Perception is everything – how we choose to see and interpret our lives is ultimately the deciding factor in how our lives are shaped. We might not draw the outline – plenty of external stuff impacts on us too – but we select the colours that fill those lines; the tone and the texture are ours to create. The wonderful thing about gratitude is that it transforms the world into a magical place, full of meaning and depth.  It is that shaft of sunlight breaking through the leaves, the world turned golden and precious by its touch.


Rekindling the Fire

Imbolc Shrine

Imbolc Shrine

It’s been a while since I have seriously and consistently celebrated the festivals of the Wheel of the Year. For almost twenty years, these seasonal festivals have been the foundation of my spiritual practice but this recent period, with all its attending difficulties, has found me only sporadically writing and performing rituals for them.

After so many years of orientating myself through the honouring of these seasonal changes, it has been strange to let them go for a while. In the past, the qualities and themes of each season played an enormous part in my well-being. Through joyful times, they enriched my life and when life presented its inevitable struggles, I found the wisdom of the Wheel a huge help in getting through.

As the grief took hold of me, I stopped hearing and seeing the wisdom. The sense of spiritual connection that I had once felt crumbled in the face of the overwhelming loss that I was experiencing; the spiritual meaning that had once felt so deep and nourishing now appeared shallow and brittle.

persephone 2

When our spiritual survival kit stops working and there is nothing to replace it, we can suddenly feel ourselves resident in a psychological wasteland. The wasteland is an interesting place; it is a bleak and shadowed landscape, lifeless and featureless. It exists in parallel to normal life and those caught behind its veil can continue to witness life going on around them and yet cannot see its colours, or fully feel its sensations. It is as if we gaze at life through darkened glass. We can feel that we are in life but not of it. It’s a painful place to be.

It takes courage to function without any spiritual scaffolding but I have come to believe that this process is actually a very important part of all of our spiritual journeys. There are many stories and myths that tell of a descent to the Underworld. I have written here before about my love of the goddess Persephone. Her tale articulates so well the experience of being catapulted into the wasteland by painful change in our lives. Persephone’s abduction to the Underworld by the God of Death is an archetypal experience. We will all find ourselves in such a position at some point in our life when we lose something precious to us – a loved one; our health or any other loss that shakes us to our core.  When faced with such devastating change, we are compelled to take that journey to the land of the shades, and whilst there, we will encounter our hopelessness, cynicism and nihilism. It can feel like crying out into a void, hoping to hear an answer to our prayers but receiving only silence or echo.

We might fear that we are trapped in this grey place forever but gradually, and with faltering, meandering steps, we find our way back to the light. The darkness will always remain a part of us but somehow we will now understand its inherent wisdom. It changes us but it doesn’t have to destroy us.

I have just celebrated Imbolc. I wrote a ritual for it – my first in months. I threw myself in to decorating my shrine in honour of the season, making it pretty and decorating it with things that spoke of the first stirrings of spring.

Bride by Jane Brideson

Bride by Jane Brideson

Imbolc is strongly associated with the Celtic Goddess Brighid. She is a goddess of fire. At this time of the year she is the light that warms the soil and brings it to life; she is also the purifying and transformative flame that burns away all that no longer serves us and keeps us chained to the past. She is a matron of midwifery and as such is connected not only with physical birth but with helping us to birth new ways to be. When we are stuck and stagnant, her fiery energy brings movement – she is the rekindling; that glorious moment when we feel the life and hope within us returning.

Brighid has long been one of my special deities. I honoured and worked with her for many years but in these recent times of upheaval, she has felt very distant. Brighid was a core deity for me, so it was a surprise to sense my relationship with her slip away. I had started to feel that Brighid and I had lost touch for good but this last week, particularly since my Imbolc ritual, I have felt her presence growing.

This reconnection has undoubtedly been triggered by the realisation that I need to let go of some things I have been holding on to. When we are in the wasteland, the past calls to us; all that we have lost resides in our memories. Reaching out to the past is a natural response to grief; all that is lost to us returns in those moments of remembering. It is a way of coping with loss and honouring what we grieve but we cannot stay in this place for ever – we must come to the place of letting go. This process takes a long time – months, years even – there is no timetable that we can follow; these things unfold at their own pace, but we must all return to the surface – Persephone can’t stay in the Underworld forever or spring will never return.

This last month I have been able to take a step back and see just how much I have been clinging to the past, so much so that the current blessings of my life are being missed. Key to reclaiming the present is acceptance – beneath the heavy weight of anger and impotence that loss brings, awaits our acceptance. Acceptance is compassionate and patient and will wait for as long as we need to discover it within us.  It is an extraordinary moment when we begin to feel its effect upon us, as I have this past week.

For my Imbolc ritual I felt the strong urge to offer up my recent past to Brighid’s healing fire, handing it over to her with trust and faith that nothing is truly lost but merely transformed into something new. I made a commitment to myself to embrace the tender stirrings of healing and renewal happening within me and in doing so, I have felt Brighid’s protective, joyful and empowering presence growing inside me.

Snowdrop by Amy Weiss

Snowdrop by Amy Weiss

A month ago I could never have envisaged this shift happening but the gift of acceptance has laid down its thread of light to guide me back from the wasteland. The wasteland is not the enemy, or a punishment –it is, in fact, a place of healing although it can feel the opposite when we wrestle with our pain. The wasteland is the dark, cold, wet soil of winter waiting patiently for the warming light to stir it. The rekindling has come; the frozen earth cracked open by a tender snowdrop.





I’m Back!!

Persephone Rising by Zabani

Persephone Rising by Zabani

It’s has been a long time since I posted on this blog; thank you to those people who have very kindly signed up to follow A Druid Thurible – it has been lean pickings for you for some time now.

As many of you know, my father died eighteen months ago. This was followed by a series of challenging events, most notably moving house twice and going through my divorce. On top of this I began to experience the menopause. Losing my fertility has not been an issue for me – I have never wanted to have children – but what has proved difficult has been the hormonal mood shifts and the crippling exhaustion that breaks over me like a dense wave. I have no doubt these symptoms have been made worse by my grief. Dad’s death has been a major loss and it has been a slow process of moving through the myriad and unpredictable feelings that grief brings. So please forgive my absence, I have had so little energy, but I hope that you have enjoyed the archive. I endeavour to get back to posting regularly and this is my first, tentative offering.

Gradually, I feel myself emerging. It isn’t a linear progression by any means; I still have bad days when things feel overwhelming but this last week has found the fog clearing and a little bit of my old whiz and fizz has returned. It’s wonderful to feel myself opening again, particularly in the area of my spiritual life, which has felt particularly stagnant in the aftermath. I just wasn’t feeling any sense of connection. The things that had held meaning have felt distressingly dull and lifeless. Grief can dismantle our sense of self; we can find ourselves without faith or trust in life just at the point we need it most. This sudden disconnection can be devastating; it is like a second bereavement; you can find yourself utterly stripped of your coping mechanisms, and what is left is you – you, your vulnerability and fragility.

When you are in the thick of grief, there is no analysing your way out. As a person who loves to analyse, this was intensely frustrating. I gave up trying to make sense of my feelings; I realised that my futile attempts to label them was my way of endeavouring to feel that I had some control. I didn’t. I ultimately had to admit that I wasn’t alright and no amount of intellectualising was going to contain the deep, bottomless anguish that repeatedly rose to the surface. I loved my dad dearly and we were extremely close. After my mother’s death as a child, he had been both parents, and having lost my sister and my brother living half way across the world, I felt alarmingly alone. Of course, I am not alone; I have a loving partner, family and friends, but somehow that momentous moment when our last remaining parent dies can hard wire us back to all those subconscious childhood fears of abandonment. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can suddenly find yourself feeling all the anxieties and terrors of a mother and fatherless child.

Imbolc has just happened, and for the first time in a couple of turnings of the Wheel of the Year festivals, I have felt the energy of this one acutely; that sudden stirring and quickening has gripped me. It has been delightfully surprising after the emotional and spiritual paralysis of recent times.

I will write more about the wonderful rekindling energy of Imbolc in my next post but for now I am back and very pleased to be so.

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