All Power to the Druid Councils – Stewart Home

Stewart Home

I first heard Stewart Home reading his poem All Power to the Druid Councils on a CD given to me by a friend and frequently misremembered fragments come back to me – particularly when the world seems to be going through a period turmoil (when is it not?).

So here it is from Stewart’s website

 

Urban Druid

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I recorded this video on a walk in Epping Forest last November – ruminating of the idea of urban druidry. I’d just bought Living Druidry by Emma Restall Orr – I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a Druidry correspondence course for years, initially tickled that such a thing was even possible but then increasingly drawn into the idea of connecting with some form of environment based faith system (you can put that down to impending middle age if you like). But every time I dip my toe in the pagan pond it always turns up ethereal folk swanning around in Wiltshire or somewhere similarly scenic and Arthurian.

Ambresbury Banks

Ambresbury Banks

Well for me there is nothing more Arthurian than Epping Forest – one of the candidates for the real King Arthur was knocking around these parts, Ambrosius Aurelianus, who re-fortified Ambresbury Banks up near Theydon Bois. But getting away from supposed previous Golden Ages why can’t druidry be just as relevant to a dirty old city like London as to the chalk downlands and sweeping green hills.

In my mind though, when I entertain the idea the Urban Druid it looks as if it would be to druidry what Tony Hancock’s artist was to the art world in The Rebel.

 

 

Pagan Britain by Ronald Hutton

hutton

There’s an intriguing and rewarding review of Ronald Hutton’s Pagan Britain by Graham Robb, author of The Ancient Paths – discovering the lost map of Celtic Europe, which I have lying unread on a stack of books behind me. I’ll soon be adding Pagan Britain to the pile and place it next to Robb’s book to see what happens. I’m fond of dabbling in a bit of neo-paganism myself but lurking in a corner of my mind as I do so is the idea that it is mostly a C18th invention.

Historians should be “prepared to stand back and let the public dream its own dreams”, Hutton says. Members of that public who venture into this dense, erudite work in search of dream-fuel will have many sleepless nights. But, for Hutton, flimsy speculation is the enemy of truth, and in this, it seems, archaeologists are almost as guilty as credulous neo-pagans. In fact, there was probably no “organised and self-conscious British pagan religion throughout the Middle Ages”, instead witchcraft was mostly a construct of theologians and magistrates. And there is no evidence “that any active pagan religion survived anywhere in the island, in opposition to Christianity, throughout the Middle Ages, let alone longer“.Graham Robb – The Guardian 25.01.14

read the review here

Winter solstice: See the light on the darkest day | Art and design | guardian.co.uk

maeshowe The meaning of light … the passage into Maeshowe chambered tomb, on Mainland, Orkney Islands. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

It is time to pray for the return of the sun. In this deep midwinter, we can start to imagine what the winter solstice meant to the ancient inhabitants of Britain who built Stonehenge and Maeshowe, and who aligned these mysterious buildings to receive the remote rays of the sun on the darkest day of the year.

This is the holiest time of the year – if you happen to share the beliefs of these ancient pagans, which, in fact, are obscure because they left no writings or even much in the way of figurative art. But the winter solstice must have been deeply important to them because on this day, and this day only, sunlight creates startling effects at Britain’s late neolithic and early bronze age monuments. Most astonishingly of all, it enters the long narrow entrance passage of the burial mound of Maeshowe on Orkney’s Mainland island and glows on the back wall of the inner chamber. The building becomes a giant camera, catching sunlight in a moment of mystery and wonder.

The architecture of Maeshowe is one of the marvels of these islands. Inside the earthen mound is a profoundly impressive chamber made of massive blocks of stone arranged in powerful lintels neatly layered, perforated by accurately rectangular openings. There is a precision to the stone construction and its plan, with symmetrical side chambers. When later Viking warriors broke into the chamber they wrote runic inscriptions on its stones, adding to the strange atmosphere. But it is at the winter solstice that Maeshowe consummates its mystery with the astronomical spectacle of the sun piercing its dark sanctum of death.

Light in darkness, life in death, the moment when the sun begins its return journey towards midsummer. Truly the pagan midwinter is a moving celebration. But, as we rush around buying presents, do we remember the true meaning of the winter sun festival?

Posted via email from fugueur’s posterous

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sunset walk

Set off with no aim other than to head in the general direction of Baker’s Arms – by the most indirect route practical.
Avebury Road always has a certain appeal, the romance of it and only this evening did I spot the compatibility of its conjunction with Southwest Road.
Further up off Bulwer I again clock Hawbridge Road and I play amateur etymology conjoining the prefix ‘Haw’ = the fruit of the sacred Hawthorne with ‘Bridge’ to suppose that this was a bridge over the Fillebrooke (PhillyBrook/ Phepes Broke). A rummage in W.H. Weston’s History of Leyton and Leytonstone shows a hand-drawn C18th map with the stream running southwest (road?) from Whipps Cross to Ruckholt – a course that would cut through Bulwer. This could have been the Haw Bridge. Another piece of pagan symmetry arising from the Fillebrook is where it once ran through or beside Coronation Gardens in Leyton is today a maze – a pagan symbol of springs and places of worship.

View Larger Map
google map showing the possible course of the Phillybrook – a windmill was recorded as sitting on the banks of the stream where the corner of Francis and Newport Roads is today

I pick up a track off Bulwer Road that runs between backs of houses. There are lock up garages for rent and fly-tipping so elaborate that it borders on installation art – Jeremy Deller recreating a liminal space as a site-specific piece.
The sunset breaks orange over the Lea. A large crow squawks. There’s a tyre in a shopping trolley waiting patiently outside a phonebox in front of an electricity substation.

Around the corner in Forest Road there is an absolutely majestic example of the architecture of the electricity substation. These things are like temples to the industrial age. Somebody please do a photographic project on them.

slideshow of photos from the walk

In West End Avenue (where the Fillybrooke was last seen above ground) you can see the back of a large abandoned wing of Whipps Cross Hospital with a noughts and crosses pattern of smashed windows.
It is bitingly cold and I’m a bit peckish but I push on over Lea Bridge Road and along the beguiling Shernhall Road with its amazing views across the Roding Valley and the Lord Raglan pub that encouragingly allows no caps nor hoods. I turn back at the end and head down Addison Road which delivers me to the warmth of The Village pub in time to catch the football results come rolling in.

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