Derwydd ym maes onnen

Discovering Druidry in and around Ashfield

Category: Druidry

The politics of a Druid

In this article, I would like to discus how politics fits into a modern druid perspective of the world. Many would say that politics should play no part in their Druidry, but I fundamentally disagree. The reason for this is that politics is the business of making decisions on behalf of a group of people, or organising society. But society can be organised and managed in many different ways. So how decisions are made is heavily influenced by the social and economic philosophies of the people making the decisions. Moral philosophy absolutely fits in with Druidry.

In the UK, it is not the party leader (the cult of celebrity) that we vote for. It is not even really the local candidate or party that you vote for. Nor even the policies in the party’s manifesto. The truth is, with your vote you lend your support to the philosophy the party adheres to. So when you vote for a local candidate who is a member of a specific party, you can be sure your are voting for someone who will perpetuate the philosophy of the party they are a member of.

Modern Druidry (as I understand and practice it) is also underpinned by a philosophy. Therefore, when engaging in national political debate it is important to look for parties and their representatives who’s philosophies are broadly inline with the philosophy embraced by Druidry. You want to walk the walk right? So with this in mind I would like to explore some of the ideas in Druidry and indeed most modern Paganism to tease out a basic philosophy, and see how it’s consideration might influence political choices.

If you ask 2 people to define either Druidry or Paganism, you will very likely get 2 different answers. To say that they are broad churches would be an massive understatement. Finding an agreeable definition is fraught with obstacles, opinions and challenges. But there are two things that almost all of these esoteric paths agree on. The first is a rejection of authority and societal norms, and the second is that “Nature is sacred” in some way.

By their vary nature, Druidry, Wicca, Heathenism etc are all “alternative” spiritualities. They are not the state endorsed Christianity and as such are a rejection of the norms, a rejection of the status quo. They are counter-culture movements rejecting the authority of the church-state machine to dictate the beliefs of the citizens. Beliefs that underpin the choices made by the society. The belief that God granted Man “dominion over the earth” for example, creates the mindset required to justify the exploitation of the environment for personal gain. And this “God-given right” to simply take from the environment, and shape it according to our whims is leading to the collapse of the ecosystem that supports our very lives. Further this mindset presumes then that any time nature “gets out of hand” and wrecks havoc, we look for someone to blame as it was clearly a failure of humanity to control the environment adequately that lead to the disaster. When a river bursts its banks destroying peoples homes, we ask who is to blame? Why did the council not provide better flood protection? How could the government allow this to happen? But the truth is that the mistake was building houses on a flood plain and believing we have any control over the awesome forces of nature. We fail to respect the river, to respect the fact that sometimes it will swell and burst its banks The river has claimed this land before, why would it not claim it again? Instead of respecting the river and working with it’s cycles and dynamics, we turn to fear and control which almost always backfires. In Druidry we do not seek to control nature through fear, we seek to understand, we watch the turning of the seasons and the patterns in the land and we aim to respectfully work with nature’s own rhythms.

Many people who turn to paganism do so because they are looking for something different. Something radically different to the self-destructive society on offer. There are some yes, to whom being pagan is little more than a fashion choice, or a way to rebel against conservative (with a small “c”) parents. And there are fewer still who are simply interested in seeking out romantic relationships. But to the ones taking it seriously, to the ones thinking “what does it mean to be pagan?”, it is very much about creating alternative communities, support structures and the sharing of knowledge and resources outside of the existing official structures of the society. Having failed to feel satisfied with the rigid status quo society has to offer, feeling that they do not fit the cookie-cutter template of a successful member of society, these people then seek other avenues that embrace and celebrate the change and diversity they feel they represent. First and foremost then, paganism is a rejection of any form of authority that would seek to curtail their individual expression, creativity and liberty. Personal autonomy and the freedom to make ones own choices are absolutely paramount to pagan paths, yet these are things our society seeks to restrict and control.

Closely linked to this rejection of authority is the concept that all of nature is sacred. Yet our society sees nature as little more than a resource to be exploited. Even today with all the scientific knowledge we have, and much more awareness of the destruction we are causing, we are still increasing the rate at which we extract the earth’s resources and convert them into profits in the hands of just a few lucky (usually simply lucky enough to be born to a certain family) individuals. And the fact that the global system of resource exploitation is intimately linked to how we operator our society, makes it very difficult to change one without changing the other. Especially when it is in the system’s best interest not to change. Because if it stops extracting resources for profit, how will it make profit? And so rather than risk radical change, it continues the slow march towards death, taking us all down with it.

The Pagan view of nature is very different. I am speaking very broadly here, but pagans see the world as alive. Every tree, rock, river, star, tall mountain and deep pool is alive. It has it’s own desires, needs and feelings. We talk about angry winds and raging storms. These are our gods. Nature is not there to be tamed and controlled. It is both bountiful and destructive, nurturing and indiscriminate. Far more powerful than us. But rather than fear the destructive power, we pagans accept it. Not in resignation but in reverence as we stand awe struck at the sheer magnitude, the complexity, diversity and the awesome power of it all. And from this position we try to craft respectful relationships with the aspects of nature we are drawn too. Relationships not based upon exploitation, but on mutual aid, trust and love.

If we see nature as sacred and we seek respectful beneficial relationships with the entities who inhabit our world (human, non-human, plant or whatever), then this should be the starting point of any pagan political philosophy. That any action that seeks to exploit nature is absolutely and directly an insult to the gods. Our entire mode of thought, and how we conduct our selves in the world should be based around this one simple truth. We can wrap it up in scientific terms if you prefer, in that any action that contributes to the decline of our ecosystem will lead to our own destruction and places the society as a whole in danger. If you see nature as divine, as sacred, then how could you do anything to harm that? Any form of pollution or environmental destruction you cause is an insult to your gods, to the earth, never mind counter productive for the survival of our (and most other) species.

So having established the core of a philosophy that underpins our pagan ways, how does that feed into our national political landscape? Well I would suggest that this personal pagan philosophy should drive the decisions on who to vote for and why. I.E. concerns about Nature should be first and foremost the driving factor in any decision undertaken by a person who calls them self a pagan. Every other issue is dwarfed to insignificance when placed against the continuing assault on the natural world. Yes. Even Brexit is irrelevant – utterly irrelevant – when the entire earth is dyeing.

So it was with absolute horror that I watched the result of the general election last week. Not because of the specific party or individuals that won, but because of the philosophy they advocate. But I would like to avoid party politics in this post, and keep my theme to the wider philosophies that underpin our choices.

Did we make our choices based on our pagan values? Did we make a choice that placed our gods, the natural world and it’s survival as the most important point? Or did we support parties who’s capitalist agenda necessitates further, faster, deeper exploitation of the Earths resources to deliver the economic growth we mistakenly use to measure our success?

If for some reason you call yourself a pagan, and yet last week you did not put the environment first when placing your “X” in the box, then you are no pagan at all. You are playing at it. Playing dress up and paying lip service. Basing your vote on any other issue but the environment is to betray all future generations. Worse still, if you voted for a party who’s agenda actively seeks to further the destruction of the natural world, either through policy or lack of it, then you have betrayed every living thing on earth, and the environment it’s self. Do you think you can insult the gods by supporting those who seek to destroy them, and still call your self a pagan? For the first time in a generation we had the chance to put the environment first. To see the radical change our community exists to facilitate. If we ever get chance to make a choice like that again, it will most likely be far to late to limit the damage we are doing to the natural world. And that is why any vote during this last election that did not put the environment first is unforgivable. A betrayal of the rest of the species, of every other creature, and the environment it’s self. I hope in the coming decade as our planet dies you are able to live with the decision you made last Thursday. I know I can.

The Magic of an Ashfield

As you may have noticed, this blog has been focused in and around a place called Ashfield, and I thought it would be worth exploring what that name might mean. In it’s simplest terms it refers to a piece of land, a field, that is covered in Ash trees.

Ashfield lies at the western edge of Nottinghamshire, along the border with Derbyshire. The border follows a naturally occurring magnesium limestone ridge, with Nottinghamshire taking the higher point to the east. This elevated limestone environment creates the perfect habitat for Ash trees. In historic times these Ash trees gradually gave way to more Oak trees as you made your way down the ridge and into the Sherwood sandstone area. For many years Oak and Ash dominated the landscape now named Ashfield. In fact Ash is the second most popular tree used as part of an English place name after thorn. It is easy to see why Ash is so popular in this area as the young trees pop up everywhere like weeds.

It is well known that trees were central to the spirituality of the ancient Celtic speaking tribes that inhabited these lands. So by looking at the mythology and folklore surrounding the dominate trees in this area, can we learn anything about the spirit of this landscape?

Ash trees come up many times in Celtic mythology, but in particular they are associated with Gwydion the uncle/farther of Llew. In previous posts I have shown the association in the Ashfield area with the pan-Celtic deity Lugus. Clear evidence is found in the vicinity at Blidworth and Blosover as well as the Lughnassad solar alignments that cris-cross the landscape and are centred around Hamilton Hill.

Ash was seen as one of the Chieftain trees. In Ireland, it was said there were five sacred trees of which three were Ash. These trees were lost during the conversion to Christianity, but it is unlikely they would have survived to this day as Ash trees typically only live a couple of hundred years, up to around 400. However, Ash is said to coppice very well, giving long straight poles. Ash coppice stools seem to be able to go on producing poles almost indefinitely, with one 18 foot diameter stool in Suffolk estimated to be over a thousand years old.

The Welsh Magician-god Gwydion carried a staff of Ash, a symbol of transformation and empowerment in matters of destiny. It is with these powers that Gwydion tricks Arianrod to remove her restrictions on Llew’s destiny. It is this transformational meaning for ash that we now attribute to the Ogahm feda Nuin (N in the Ogham alphabet) for the purpose of divination. A druid’s Ash staff inlaid with copper spirals has even been found on Anglesey.

This standard association of Ash with the Ogham letter Nuin is not universally accepted. All of our interpretations are based around a set of three cryptic Irish riddles known as word oghams. For Nuin these are:

Costud Síde
Staple enjoyment or supply of the otherworld

Bág Ban
Boast of women

Bág maise
Boast of beauty

As you can see these are rather cryptic clues, but they all suggest association with the otherworld and femininity, properties not traditionally linked to Ash. Some among you will have noticed the words “maes onnen” in the title of this blog. Maes onnen means field of Ash, where onnen is the welsh word for Ash Tree. The 17th letter in the Ogham alphabet is Onn, which would appear to mean Ash tree in old Irish. This letter however is usually associated with Gorse. The word oghams for Onn are:

Congnaid, congnamaid ech
Wonuder/helper of horses

Fétham soíre
Smoothest craftsmanship

Lúth fían
Sustenance of warriors

Initially these clues are just as cryptic as the ones for Nuin, but in this instance we know that Ash was extensively used in carpentry. Ash wood is very strong, and it is said a joint of ash will bear more load than any other wood. It was commonly used for chariot and coach axles, as well as ores, tool handles and many other uses. It was especially prised for use in spears. The English word Ash comes from the Old English word “aesc” meaning spear. Dried leaves of ash were also used as a fodder for horses. All of these associations seem to fit the word ogham of Onn much better than gorse. So it seems that the standard tree associations repeated in the vast majority of literature surrounding the Ogham alphabet needs re-considering.

Confusion in the Ogham alphabet aside there is quite a lot of British folklore surrounding Ash without the need to resort to the Norse world tree Yggdrasil. You must also be careful not to confuse Ash with Rowan, which is also known as Mountain Ash. A quick search for traditional Ash uses online for example will turn up much of what is in this article, but it will also include the use of “Ash berries” in a baby’s crib to ward off faeries. But Ash doesn’t grow any berries! This is just an example of people copying and pasting the same miss-information, with no understanding of the trees they are writing about. If you come across this remember that “Ash berries” are actually Rowan Berries. Same goes for when you see Ash as a “protection” tree. This is actually a reference to Rowan.

A folk practice from Suffolk recorded in 1834 speaks of an Ash tree or sapling being split down the middle. A baby would then be passed between the cleft gap 3 times, and afterwards the tree would be bound up. If the tree successfully healed it’s self then all would be well in the child’s life. In other locations this practice was used as a way of healing children, especially of rupture or weak limbs. This link between Ash trees, childhood and healing is reflected in other customs too. Newborn babies were sometimes given a teaspoon of ash sap before leaving their mothers bed for the first time. In many cases where a person is passed between the split tree, the fate of the individual and the tree would become intertwined with the welfare and fate of one effecting the other, which would lead to people becoming rather protective of “their” ash tree.

Other use for ash were the curing of lameness, swellings in cattle and general pains which were thought to be caused by a shrew running over them. Thus a hole would be bored into an ash tree, then a shrew would be thrust in and the hole plugged up. It was then thought that any animal or person brushed with the leaves of the tree would be cured. There was just such a tree in Richmond Park in London during the 19th century that was used to cure children of whooping cough.

Other folklore and customs surrounding the Ash include the making of small ash crosses which were thought to protect the owner from drowning at sea. Ash keys, the winged seeds, were also thought to be protective against negative magic, and ash wands were used for the raising and conducting of healing energies. Ash leaves placed under ones pillow were thought to induce prophetic dreams, or placed in water to fight off illness. Ash is commonly found growing besides holy wells suggesting some kind of role in the well dressing customs, and it was said in Ireland that crops growing in the shadow of an ash tree would fail.

Ash wood is also prised as a firewood, with it’s density making it an ideal fuel that burns for a long time with an intense heat, regardless of whether it is seasoned or is green. Ash is also said to attract lightening, and lightning struck trees were seen to make especially powerful wands. This attraction of lightening is remembered in the old verse “Avoid the Ash, It draws the flash!”. Another verse that deals with Ash is for predicting how much rain there would be in the year depending on what tree leafs first:

Oak before Ash we are in for a splash
Ash before Oak we are in for a soak

It may well be true that these kinds of sweeping weather predictions are about as accurate as a tabloid zodiac column, but the leafing of these two trees does tell us something important about our environment. Both trees leaf at around the same time of year, between late march and may. But where as the Oak times it’s leafing mainly based on the temperature, the Ash is more influenced by the number of day light hours. So if spring arrives early with high temperatures in February and March, then the Oak trees will be likely to leaf first. If, however, the cold weather persists until April, then the Ash trees are likely to leaf first. As Britain experiences more and more warm springs, Oak has been leafing up to two weeks earlier than it did 30 years ago. Historical data suggests that Ash used to win the race at least 30% of the time, but recent studies have found that Ash has only leafed first 3 times in 40 years. Because Oak and Ash often compete for the same canopy space, and Ash has been loosing out year on year, this is having a big impact on the bio-diversity of our woodlands. Ash makes a perfect habitat for the rare and threatened High Brown Fritillary butterfly. Bullfinches eat Ash seeds and Woodpeckers, Owls, Redstarts and Nuthatches all use the tree for nesting. Ash trees also support deadwood specialist species such as the lesser stag beetle, and the bark is often covered in lichens and mosses. Also the leaves feed several species of moth caterpillars, and the early leaf fall creates perfect conditions for wildflowers such as Dog Violet, Wild Garlic and Dogs Mercury.

There is another important threat to Ash trees too. A disease known as Ash dieback, which is caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. The disease causes the tree to lose its leaves and the crown to die back, resulting in the death of the tree. There are signs though that some trees are immune to this disease.

Is there then a lesson we can take from what we now know about Ash trees? Well first of all we can see that the name sake of the area, the Ash tree, is under threat. Just because is seems prolific, springing up in every garden in the area, doesn’t mean we should be complacent. Remember the ogham meaning of the tree is all about making your own fate. The transformational power to change the circumstances of the future. And now more than ever the people of the Ashfield, just like all humans, need to embrace this power to transform the future. We need to make a better world for future generations, rather than leave them a desolate and depleted wasteland. And just as the Ash has played it’s part in healing us down the centuries, we must now work to heal the Ashfield. Just as others work to heal their own localities. As I have said before, humans can’t fix climate change. We have left it to late. But nature can. Initiatives such as re-wilding and others that allow the environment to heal, are absolutely the best ways to bring our ecosystems back to some kind of homeostasis. With more resilient developed ecosystems, including forests, wetland and marshes, the earth would be better able to cope with extreme events and pollutants. Focusing on climate change and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is like treating the symptom and not the cause. So perhaps that is what it means to be a Druid in the field of Ash trees? To simply work towards allowing the local environment to heal. To embrace the transformational power and take control of the future.

The story of how the environment can be saved, that no one wants to hear.

I, like many people am rather worried about the prospect of global climate change and the mass extinction that is currently underway. Environmentalism has been a big part of my life since I was a teenager, and over the last 15 years or so I have come to the conclusion that there is no way our current political, economic and social systems will address the issue in time to avert a disaster. It is a sad position to feel yourself in and can lead to disengagement and a sense of giving up. A sense that there is no hope. I have come to realise though, how very wrong I was.

If the politicians, the scientists and the systems we have in place have utterly failed to act in time, and the structures underpinning society are unlikely to change radically enough to enact a meaningful change, where is this hope? To whom can we turn to help humanity through this crisis? The answer it so obvious it is almost painful.

First though, I think we humans need to accept we have failed. We had a really good stab at it, but since the initial charting of the electromagnetic spectrum we have understood that what we can perceive with our senses is less than one millionth of reality. Of that small proportion of reality we can perceive, we are only aware of how a small fraction of it works. With our human arrogance we think that we understand some part of nature, and that if we control that small part (such as the amount of carbon in the atmosphere) then we can “fix it” and make nature work the way we want. But in absolutely every attempt of humanity to subdue nature, we fail to see the vast quantity of intricate connections to other ecosystems and the subtle changes that end up causing environmental disasters. Even the simple tilling of land for growing food leads to soil erosion. The worst part is that in our arrogance we ignore all the millions of intricate relationships and connections between the animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and everything else in the ecosystem that we do not understand. If we don’t understand it then it can’t be important. But then every week there are news articles about new discoveries that completely change the way we understand these interconnected systems. Humanity’s quest to understand everything through science has been valiant, but it has utterly failed. In our quest to understand we have wrought untold destruction. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of what there is to know, and now we have run out of time. There simply is not enough time left for science to understand the entire workings of the planetary biosphere, and convert that understanding into political and social action in order to avert the disaster we have caused. And to think that we can do so now at this eleventh hour shows yet more human arrogance and that we have learned absolutely nothing from our mistakes. No, I think we have had our chance and have proven that we are not capable of the stewardship of the earth we seem to believe we are entitled too.

So if Humanity can’t resolve the climate crisis, who can? Who has the ability to fully comprehend all the important interconnected systems that support and encourage life on this planet? Who can comprehensively rebuild these devastated ecosystems at a rate fast enough to avert disaster? Who has the power to save humanity from extinction? And who will do this without payment, with no desire for reward or recognition? The answer is simple. I am beginning to believe the way forward is for humanity to accept it’s failure of science, and to once again petition the gods for their help. Stay with me a moment and hear me out.

If we stop interfering with Mother Nature, then the great mother goddess will rebuild all of the devastated ecosystems of the earth with absolutely no input from humanity. And she could do it in record time simultaneously across the entire globe. Without human interference nature would rebuild itself with new ecosystems that act as carbon sink. Grass lands, forests, bogs, and all other habitats and ecosystems would flourish, and the earth’s ability to deal with extremes of carbon output and other pollutants would be restored. It is not just that we humans are polluting the earth, it is that we are also destroying the ecosystems that would have naturally been able to absorb the pollutants. It is death by a thousand cuts.

So what if humanity could do just that. What if we could let go and place our trust and faith in the Goddess to restore herself to beauty, so that we all may benefit from her abundant love? Humans and every other species of life on the planet would benefit alike. Human science, politics, society and other artificial constructs can not, and will not save us. But the goddess both would and could.

For me the next logical conclusion is that as pagans who “love nature”, “worship nature”, “see nature as sacred” etc, is it not our responsibility as devotees to nature, to the mother of us all, to ensure that nature can flourish of it’s own accord everywhere that we can? To return brown field sites to nature and let her take her course. To prevent any further destruction of ecosystems. To let existing ecosystems such as meadows, forests, wet lands and seas all mature and re-grow the intricate relationships and connections that allow them to keep the climate in balance. Those would be the actions of someone who is truly devoted to nature.

There has been talk for a while now that humanity is lacking a story for the modern age. That we have outgrown our existing stories and have not been able to find a new one that will lead us through these dark times. I am beginning to feel that this is the story that we need:

If we let her, the Goddess will save us.

A Druid quest: Find the grail and save the planet!

Ask two people who have adopted the label of Druid exactly what Druidry is and you are very likely to get completely different answers. If you ask the same person twice you are still likely to get two different answers. There simply is no clear definition, and the study of Druidry encompasses so many subjects, it is very difficult to pin it down. Having said that, one key theme that is likely to come up is a reverence for nature. Trees, plants and animals make up a good proportion of the study.

This reverence for nature is expressed in a myriad of ways. For some people it is simply enough to go for a walk in the woods every so often and “forest bathe”, feeling a connection to the environment that is not present in their everyday mundane lives. Lives in which they “carry on as normal” most of the time, as full participants in society with all the trappings and responsibilities that comes with. Mortgages, cars, single use plastic and the modern world.

For some, reverence for nature goes a little deeper. The question goes along the lines of: If I hold nature to be sacred, how can I allow any of my actions to contribute to its destruction. This inevitably leads to desires to reduce our own consumption and environmentally destructive behaviours. Perhaps even to consider growing our own food, living off grid or protesting environmentally destructive initiatives, veganism and so on. Whatever the actions, the result is a feeling of distancing from what is seen as the destructive consumption driven norms of society.

In short, a deep reverence for nature should lead to a questioning of our own impact on the environment, and hopefully a desire to change our ways. It should also lead to the realisation that civilisation as we know it is the direct cause of environmental destruction. What I would like to question in this article, is the response we as druids have to this realisation.

In many cases (not all) our reactions are introspective. Focused on our own actions and behaviours. We understand that it is the wider behaviour of society that is at fault, yet we seek the solutions at the individual level. What can I do? Be the change you want to see as Gandhi put it. There is nothing wrong with this, and as part of our spiritual growth it is an important step, but it doesn’t have the level of impact on the wider problem that we so desperately need in this time of environmental collapse and mass extinction. In part this is due to an individual feeling of impotence when it comes to affecting change on a large scale. Another option is to join a group and to try to apply pressure that way. The group at the moment is Extinction Rebellion, but groups come and go. Ten years ago it was the Camp for Climate action. Extinction Rebellion is no different, it is simply the latest incarnation of the movement to save our ecosystem. Some people will join, some won’t, and very quickly, the actions of a few individuals will cause the entire movement to be seen in an ill light. What idiot did the Extinction Rebellion logo graffiti on the standing stone? Well done that person.

Like everyone else, I do not have the answers to these problems. I am as vexed as everyone else as to how we may prevent this impending catastrophe. I am as frustrated by the lack of action as you, and indeed the backwards steps we currently seem to be taking with the increased destruction of the Amazon, and the appointment of right wing politicians who continue to put profit first, and hardly even pay lip service to the environmental armageddon we face. But perhaps we can look to our mythology for parallels that reflect our current predicament. And perhaps, just perhaps, we may find clues as to how to respond to the challenges we face now.

In early version of Arthurian legends, the grail is kept by the fisher king or wounded king, who suffers from a leg or groin wound and is unable to walk. He can only sit in his little boat and spend his days fishing by his castle. The wound cripples the king and effects his virility, and as the king suffers, as does the land, becoming barren and infertile as a result. Eventually Percival, a knight of the round table comes to the castle in search of the grail and restores the king and the land to health.

Like the land of the fisher king, our world is becoming a barren and infertile wasteland unable to support life as we know it. Or at least our lives. Like the land of the fisher king, the world’s poor health is a direct result of the impotence of its rulers. Their wounded characters, and their lack of action.

Percival was raised in the isolation of the forest by his widowed mother who purposefully hid the realities of the world from him keeping him ignorant and naive. When he reached 15 he came upon a group of knights passing through the woods, and decided to leave home to become a knight of the round table. Percival’s innocence and ignorance is then further compounded by his tutor in arms, Gornemant, who instructs Percival not to question the significance of the things he sees.

Like Percival we are purposefully kept ignorant by the lies of politicians. We are misled with oversimplified reactionary news articles, that do not reflect the reality of the situation. And we grow up in an education system that teaches us to unquestionably accept the instructions of authority above all else, and simply accept the “facts” we are given. We, like Percival, are taught not to question the significance of the things that we see.

When Percival remembers that his mother fainted when he first left, he decides to go and see her, but first comes across the fisher king who invites him to stay in his castle. While he is there he witnesses a strange precession of magnificent objects including a bleeding lance and a grail, but due to his instruction Percival remains silent and doesn’t question this. The next morning when he awakes the castle is gone. He continues his journey until he comes across a young girl who chastises him for not asking about the grail as it would have healed the fisher king. Percival resolves to again find the castle of the fisher king so that he might ask the right question and heal him.

Like the human population of the earth, Percival knows that something is amiss, he can see it with his own eyes, but due to his upbringing and conditioning, doesn’t feel that he has the authority to question the status quo. Like those who today deny the impending climate catastrophe, there are none so blind as those that will not see. Ignorance is bliss until reality gives you a good slap in the face. And this is where I feel humanity is stuck. The young girl has chastised us, but as a society we are yet to accept our mistake and resolve to correct the situation.

Our quest for the grail must now begin in earnest. We must seek the means to restore the land. There will be perils and pitfalls along the way, but that is the nature of a quest, it is difficult and dangerous. At stake is the life of the land and all who depend upon it. We must rid ourselves of the ignorance of the situation and continue on the quest with clarity and purpose.

How can we apply this understanding to the situation at hand? As I said above I do not have the answers, but I suspect that at least part of it lies in the symbology of the grail itself. The grail is of course the Christianisation of earlier Celtic symbology surrounding cauldrons. There are many cauldrons in the mythology of the British Isles, but it is generally accepted that it is a symbol of the feminine. The knights of the Arthurian tales are chivalrous. Many of their deeds and quests are concerned with protecting the honour of the ladies in their lives.

Today’s society is dominated by the masculine principle. We are a patriarchal society obsessed with dominating the natural world for our own selfish gain. Faced with the challenge of climate change, we seek to dominate and control further. We believe that if only we can plant enough trees and stop burning fossils we can once again manipulate the system to our advantage. But isn’t this failing to learn the lesson we are being taught?

Is the key to unlocking this conundrum the very relationship we have with our environment? If we as a society and individuals can build a relationship not based upon acquisition of resources, of exploitation and use. A relationship that embraces the feminine, that embraces community, mutual aid and compassion. Or at least a more balanced approach than we currently have. Then perhaps with a different perspective we may be able to find a way through these issues we face.

If we can find the grail within ourselves. Within our work places and communities. Our nations and our societies. Then I believe we can change our relationship with our environment. But I think we need to seek the grail in every aspect of our lives with honesty and integrity. And it will not be easy.

It is folly to try and control everything. We need to learn to let go and understand that we are entirely dependent on our environment. We must instead focus on fostering a far more respectful relationship. One that respects the ebb and flow of our weather patterns and the changing of our seasons. The natural harvest cycles. We must learn to take only what we need and to give just as much back. Landfill makes a poor offering to the gods!

Are you ready to embark on perhaps the most important quest we have ever had to undertake? I am not sure any of us are. But we must undertake this quest now if we have any hope of success.

Good luck brave knight.