Saturday, 29 November 2008


I woke today to brilliant sunshine, pale blue sky, and a diamond hard frost. I cannot pretend it was very early, but all the more welcome given that I was emerging from a bad night. Doubly so as this year seems to have been an endless succession of grey skies.

Yet there is more to this than a ‘nice day’. Our moods and our spirit are indubitably linked with the weather, along with many other things. For those of us who live in urban, western society it is easy to pretend there is no link or to head straight to the doctor because we do not understand what is ‘wrong’ with us. We have cocooned ourselves, even those of us who live in villages and isolated spots. We still shop in supermarkets, use cars, travel from building to building, and treat the bit out of doors as an inconvenience.

In doing this, we are denying our own nature. As a species we have evolved over millions of years. If you condense the last five million years to one day, the first cities were built a minute and a half ago; they became a major feature of industrialized nations three and a half seconds ago. Not much time to have had an impact. Indeed, barely time to register on our consciousness.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that we are affected by the weather, by the landscape in which we live, by the things we do. It should be no surprise that we are confused. We deny the connection is more than superficial, and we try to do things for which, as a species, we are not really suited.

These are generalizations, of course. But there, nonetheless, important points to consider. We have not been urban dwellers for long enough to evolve out of the close connection we have with the natural world. We have been urban dwellers for long enough to develop a view of the world that leads many of us to believe we are somehow separate from the very simple and elemental forces about us – the natural cycles of earth, moon, and sun; the weather; landscape.

There are those who would say, “Well, yes, but it’s just a chemical reaction in the brain.” To which I would blow an impolite raspberry. That is, of course, an element, but it is there for a reason and there is so much more to it than that. Our bodies react to the weather to good purpose. On grey, wet days we lack the same sort of drive we experience on bright, warm days. Grey days are good for staying in shelter, resting, conserving energy, thinking rather than doing. Sunny days are great for getting out and doing. Of course, modern life doesn’t allow us these luxuries. We have to go to work (if we are lucky enough to have a job); we have to work to the clock.

And there are other elements at play. Our individual natures react to the weather in different ways. And we also have cultural, emotional, spiritual, material, and geographical. I react to this sunny late November day differently to how I would react to a sunny day in early March. I have a different set of expectations and associations.

But whether the sky be sunny or grey, whether the wind blows, the waves crash, the rain falls (and perhaps, if we are lucky, the snow tumbles), I know that my reaction to the weather embeds me within the world. It doesn’t have to be a joyous, happy-bunny reaction. The grey makes me as dull as anyone else. I have no desire to isolate myself from this process. Indeed, I celebrate it; celebrate simply by watching the birds feed, the cats play, the frost fade slowly, by enjoying the very fact of my existence.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Clas Myrddin

So. Who me and why Clas Myrddin.

I’m a Druid and a writer. On occasion, I have been a Druid writer.

My first steps into the Forest were taken a very long time ago* under the aegis of Myrddin and his twin sister Gwendydd. I spent a long time there before I began to put names like ‘pagan’ and ‘Druid’ to things, and I’ve been there ever since, still with the same mentors.

Being a Druid doesn’t mean putting on a white nightie and catching a cold by some windswept stone circle (although you can if you want). It doesn’t mean trying to recreate Iron Age life by living in a round house and doing without running water, sewers, and electricity (you can try that as well, if you want). To me, it means thinking and living by a metaphysic derived from ancestral Celtic thinking.

That last sentence is a minefield. I can hear various ‘experts’ and academics girding their loins as I type (and a very unpleasant sound it is). So I will add that, although I’m a bright person who knows his way round archaeology and ancient texts, who has done prodigious amounts of research into Iron Age life and the Celtic world, who studied philosophy as part of a degree, being Druid is not for me an academic exercise. You aren’t going to get footnotes or learnĂ©d treatises.

This is about how I view the world and live my life and the precepts I have derived not just from study of texts, but from living in the world. It won’t be regular, it will rarely be profound, but I do hope it will be fun and prompt the occasional discussion.

So where does the Clas Myrddin bit come in?

1 Kyntaf henv a uu ar yr Ynys Hon, kyn no’e chael na’e chyuanhedu: Clas Merdin. Ac vedy y chael a’e chyuanhedu, Y Vel Ynys. Ac wedy y goresgyn o Brydein vab Aed Mavr, y dodet arnei Ynys Brydein.

1 The first Name that this Island bore, before it was taken or settled: Myrddin’s Precinct. And after it was taken and settled, the Island of Honey. And after it was conquered by Prydein son of Aedd the Great it was called the Island of Prydein.

(from Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch, fo. 600)

That’s where it comes in. I was born in Myrddin’s Precinct and I have adopted the name not just for the place, but for the state of mind – the place within before it was taken or settled. There are many layers to this, not least those connected with Lud, the sacred marriage, the role of Gwendydd, and the importance to me of the Arthurian mythos – so you’ll excuse me if I don’t go into all just now.

*No, I’m not telling you, but it’s more than forty.