I’ll be in the Woods

I saw that the Pagan’s friend the Daily Mail took another stab at us recently asking if we were really innocent tree-huggers or a ‘dangerous cult’. Interesting that they are still giving Paganism the column space considering that we haven’t been in the news for a couple of weeks – I guess we still help sell newspapers. Having said that the time around Samhain is always a little crazy when it comes to the press. I remember sending out letters on behalf of the Pagan Federation to our local newspapers trying to draw their attention away from the fear-mongering of certain fundie Churches, who were also on their own campaigns to make the media aware of how ‘dangerous’ Hallowe’en is, and back to what it was really about.

There is obviously still a need to offer accurate information to the press to counter the fantasies of certain journalists and groups, but one thing I wouldn’t like to see is the Pagan community having to water down what we do, or who we are, to gain some kind of public acceptance. Recently I’ve had a couple of conversations with other Pagans about how we shouldn’t wear robes, should stop talking about Magic, should forget all of this nonsense about the Faerie. That all the time we do these things we will never be accepted as ‘normal’. I really can’t agree with this. If we have to drop anything within our traditions that is not ‘normal’ just to get mainstream acceptance I don’t think that’s acceptance at all. To me that’s being forced to conform, and one of things that I love about Pagans is that conformity is not high on our agenda! When I am in ceremony I wear a robe, be that in a private Grove, or at a public ritual. Just as a Christian Priest dons their dog collar, or a couple dress up in their very best clothes to go to Glydebourne to see an opera, so my robes help me shift from everyday reality to that Other space that lets the Spirits of Place, myself, and the people at the ritual, know that we are here to do ceremony. Nothing wrong with that.

Magic. I guess we either believe in it or not, and with many aspects of our Pagan Ways there is no ‘Thou Shalt Believe in Magic’ to follow. But I do believe in this strange occult power, and I’ve felt and seen it at work. I’m not about to drop this belief just because it makes someone else feel uncomfortable.

And then there’s the Faerie… Not those dainty winged creatures created by the Victorians and so loved by Disney, no not those Faerie at all. I am talking about the Sidhe, the Spriggan, the Elf, the Wight – beings that live in another reality, another realm, a place so close to our own that sometimes they meet. This realm has many names but the one I use is Annwn. I ask no one else to believe in this realm, but I will not deny something so important to me just to fit in. It’s too important to me.

I’m quite happy to exist on the fringe of society and still hold true to my feelings. It’s nothing new for Druids – look at the myths surrounding Merlin, the Wild Man of the Woods, and Suibhne. The Druid, like the Shaman, has always had one foot in society, and the other in the mists. Indeed almost any inspired poet who looked beyond what was accepted by society, who had never lost the wonder of the child (or maybe another way of saying the same thing would be succumbed to the cynicism of adulthood) has been viewed as a weirdo. So what.

So if it takes me to drop all of the things that make me Damh just to be accepted by the mainstream press, or society as a whole, well, I’ll be in the woods, or on the moor, running like a lunatic, screaming to the Moon, stepping through the Gateway in the circle of stones, and playing my mandolin with the Seelie court. I may be some time.

16 responses to “I’ll be in the Woods”

  1. The part I enjoyed reading here is your description of Annwn and how you connect to it. As you say this realm has many names.

    Some folks that visit our labyrinths seem to have some embarrassment about what their other realm connection is. Some have their angels, their spirit guide, their christ and so forth.

    I love to remind these people about that 1951 movie, one of my all time favourite movies, with James Stewart and “Harvey” and how that turned out in the end.

    I try to re-assure people that its all right, even if that connection is through an imaginary friend. I think its good to call up the “imaginary friend” as a guide when the inner heart may seem a bit foggy.

    I believe this is true with stories, the legends we share, a variation on the journey with the imaginary friends.

    There always seems to be the three steps in a story, the steps of purgation (facing our demons). illumination and concludes with union and understanding. It does not matter if its a mummer’s play, punch and Judy show or Star Wars its the same teaching but with different settings and characters.

    This is such a huge content that makes our life a joy and colourful.

  2. I love they way they used words like “footsoldiers”, “march” and “army”. I think they’d be just as effective if they were given sandwich boards with the words “the end of British society is nigh” and were allowed to spout this nonsense on street corners.

  3. Damh – I’d rather be right there with you in the woods and groves than conforming to suit some idea that The Daily Mail wants – It’s taken me many years to be comfortable in the head and skin I’m in – I want to be able to see the beauty in the Moon or feel my heart soar when I see the Mountains or crashing waves – I want to be connected to the land and feel the energy pouring from standing stones – I don’t want to be a person who cannot see into the realm of the Fae – I’m practical when there is a need for it but I wasn’t a whole person until I embraced my esoteric side – I’m not prepared to loose that again

  4. i don’t know why, but when reading the part about the Faerie and Annwn, tears (of joy) started streaming from my eyes. Strange, but I have to wholeheartedly agree.

  5. I usually don’t comment in language that sets up two conflicting sides, but I cannot help thinking from your opening lines – “Is the Daily Mail innocent tree choppers, or a dangerous cult?”

  6. I couldn’t agree more Damh. You reminded me of a discussion about equality issues that came up at work recently. Someone made a comment about us all being the same regardless of our differences, and while I appreciated the intent of their statement, I couldn’t help but ask whether it’s not just about recognising what makes us the same, but just as importantly about being able to rejoice in our differences; being able to look them straight in the eye with openness, curiosity, a desire to understand, perhaps even being excited by the prospect that we might actually learn something, instead of fear, distrust and a rigid mind. Difference does not create conflict, it is the fear of difference in people’s hearts that creates conflict. If pagans are only accepted because ‘we are all the same really’, where our difference has to be sterilised, disempowered, rebranded, effectively made irrelevant, then that just isn’t acceptance. Acceptance to me means not having to split yourself into two people to protect others from feeling challenged by your world view. It means being able to stand up and say ‘this is who I am’ without fear of abuse or retribution. The bottom line is that no matter what you believe or how you see the world, there will always be people who don’t think/feel the same as you. And some of those people may have lost their child’s eyes and see the world through the lenses of ‘should’ and ‘must’ and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and ‘normal’. We could spend our whole lives trying to work out how we can make people accept us, but in the process we sacrifice our self-acceptance. I’m not willing to make that deal.

  7. Well said Damh – I couldn’t agree with you more and I don’t think this is being confrontational. Sometimes you just need to be and most people will accept that’s who you are. If they are interested in who and why you are – they’ll ask.


  8. I have been following your career for over 9 years and this particular blog is the reason I will continue to support you in any way that I can.

    “I’ll be in the woods, or on the moor, running like a lunatic, screaming to the Moon, stepping through the Gateway in the circle of stones…” <—This is precisely how I feel and follow my path, as well.

    I, for one, truly appreciate your words of wisdom and encouragement. Thank you, Dahm. I feel honored to have been inspired by you, my friend.

    Blessed Be, Fionn

  9. I don’t mind being on the fringes of culture, but I also want to do what I can to bring pagan values to the dominant culture. For me these include honoring the sacred feminine in everyday life, expressed in worship as devotion to the Goddess. This plays into the way we humans treat the world, and an Earth based spirituality will definitely be of use to help prevent further damage to Her, and perhaps reverse what we’ve already done. And while I won’t water down my spirituality, I will never step down from it, or shy away from it.

    As my colleague Aion says, “Heal the Earth! Rebirth!”

  10. I’ll get my cloak and see you there,
    With tumbling wind pulling my hair,
    What others think I do not care,
    You sentiments I truly share!

    Many thanks for an inspiring and extremely perceptive post Damh, much appreciated!

  11. I loved your post and agree whole heartedly.

    I would add my echo to the above posts and count myself honoured to be part of the pagan tribe.

    Why would I give up my relationship with my goddesses and gods, spirits of place, guardians of place, ancestors and trees, plants, faery, the earth, the sky, the sea, with fire, water, air and earth, the four winds, with magick, with herbs and healing, with the woods, my grove, my druidry, my life?

    For what?

    So I can be accepted into society?

    What life would that be?

    Not one for me that’s for sure! ever!

    I’m away to the woods, better to be deemed bonkers or dangerous, than to give up my freedom, my life.

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