Posts Tagged ‘arts’

Stand out from the crowd: Nimue Brown guest post

February 27, 2019

  As a Druid whose first instinct is to be a supporter and cheerleader of the ongoing whatevers, I am accepting this insight from Nimue Brown as a life challenge.

Druid Life

Standing out from the crowd is on Molly Scott Cato’s list of things to do to resist fascism. I think this is a particularly interesting one for Pagans. For a person who feels afraid, blending in and not drawing attention is a very natural approach to take. To make yourself visible can feel, in hostile environments, like making yourself into a target. However, if we all try to protect ourselves by conforming, what we get is an even narrower range of safe ways of being, ever more pressure to conform and ever more vulnerability for the people who can’t.

Fascism doesn’t like diversity. It doesn’t like there being many different faiths and philosophies, and ways of living and being. Diversity makes people harder to control. It’s worth noting that tyranny generally doesn’t like diversity – you only have to think of the clothing restrictions in Maoist China. Tyranny loves…

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Thinking like a Swamp Thing? Developing a Plant Politics and Ethics (Part 2)

December 16, 2018


Reading Super Heroes Politically

This is the second of a three part post about the politics and philosophic aspects of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing. If you missed the first part you can find it here. These posts are all part of a rough draft I wrote for a conference and any comments or feedback would really helpful in moving forward.

Thinking like a Swamp Thing: Developing a Plant Politics and Ethics

With Swamp Thing’s human foundation removed by Alan Moore the character becomes, as Colin Beinke notes, an example of the Green Man literary trope. The Green Man is a folklore character that represents the struggle of the natural world against the destructive tide of civilization. Examples of the Green Man are: Dionysus, Pan, Jack-in-the-green, the Green Knight and most recently, the Jolly Green Giant. As Beinke states, “…the Green Man is ‘adopted’ by the cultural imagination of each subsequent ‘society and…

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guest post from OBOD: AWEN leads to Phoenix art school

August 23, 2018

How Druidry Helped Create a Successful Art School in Phoenix, Arizona


Metro Magic and the Subtle Laws of Manifestation: The Story of How Druidry Helped Create a Successful Art School in Phoenix, Arizona
by Matthew Thomas Baker – Druid and Arts Educator


Looking back, years later, I have come to see that we learned in those early years, to live on the creative edge of life itself. There were many other small and medium-size Metro magical moments over the years. Once we became more established they seemed to move from securing our site and on to manifesting for the students themselves. Time and time again the right students have found their way to us. We have grown to over 250 students aged 13-18, and they are all engaged in the creative process. Through the art-making process, they explore the invisible curriculum that teaches how to live on the edge, take risks, and listen for what wants to emerge in their art and by extension their lives.

The school has, of course, gone on to deal with other serious challenges, for each stage of organizational growth presents its own unique hurdles to overcome. Yet, in all those stages the underlying faith in the process that was established in the early years continued to guide me and the school. Even in the face of deep criticism and even betrayal, we have continued to listen for what wants to arise in the space. At each hurdle we have found a way through or around the challenge. The path has always been one of learning, the most meaningful of which has also been deeply humbling, for it is always something just out of one’s capacity to see or understand that must be learned.

Creative transformation is the underlying process and purpose of magic. It is, in essence, what the universe is up to. After all these years of connecting to the source of my own inspiration and letting the AWEN flow through, I have come to see that magic works because we align ourselves with what is already happening and wants to happen. Sometimes, we do not want certain things to happen, but we cannot see all the ways in which the unfolding of the story is part of the larger tapestry of our growth and development.

Perhaps, in the end, we are all destined to become both mystics and magicians. Perhaps we are designed to connect with the radiant source of our inspiration while we learn to midwife the inspired dreams of our shared hearts into existence. If we can sense and trust what wants to emerge from within and learn to rest in the underlying unity of what is, then we can develop the magical capacity to shape our world into a more beautiful and elegant place.


Metro Arts continues to thrive and has moved into stage three of organizational development. This later stage of growth ensures that Metro will last long after the founders are gone, and will continue to be of service to the many young people who find their way to the school. Today Matthew Baker continues as Head of School, while at the same time he feels called to the next stage of life’s adventure. He has co-founded a new institute which is committed to braiding together the insights of the Nondual mystical traditions with the creative and deeply transformative capacities of the Shamanic traditions. These two wisdom streams have been and continue to be an integral part of the development and management of Metro Arts. Matthew’s goal is to develop tools and pathways that help others help themselves to bring their own authentic contribution to the world, and in that process develop meaning and purpose in their lives.

art by Frida Kahlo

January 2018: Two Full Moons: Super Full Moon and The Total Lunar Eclipse Blue Moon

January 7, 2018

Bard Mel Brake has really summed up the moons of January.

He also enlightened me that the hit song ‘Age of Aquarius’ is aligning today Jan. 7 2018, as it has not since 1998 🙂



During this week Winter Solstice December 21, 2017, I was presented with a vision that featured one of my departed love ones who showed me a picture of him cutting me out of his life. On the other side of the room was a portal as one does open during the Winter Solstice but I was afraid of passing through it for fear of losing him.

Now when I think of this and the irony of me not wanting to pass through the portal because my loved one has been dead for more than 15 years but maybe, the message was not to be afraid to accept the changes that are here and now and to surrender to what no longer services us before we move into the new year of 2018.

Cutting ties to places, people and things that no longer services us.

Speaking of the year 2018 which…

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Samhain Full Moon TONIGHT  

October 27, 2015

Source: tumblr_nw1e6mE7q91qijt9zo1_500.gif (500×750)

Spirit Boat guest post: The Original Instructions of the Wilderness Era of Finnish Shamanism

October 26, 2014

Spirit Boat: The Original Instructions of the Wilderness Era of Finnish Shamanism.

The most ancient division of the Finnish pre-agricultural society was into three clans, bear, elk, and pike.  They also preferred to worship the spirits of place rather than more distant over-arching deities. The one below I take as a spirit of place, as it is made of clay and neither elk, fish or bear.  I think it looks like a Moomin– children’s book author Tove Jansson’s creations, still very popular world-wide.

For ancestors of the Finns, the spirits persons (haltiat) of nature, of animals and of ancestors—rather than the sky gods—were the ones with whom they interacted with and consulted on a daily basis. (Shepherd: 1999)

For instance, the many clay figures found at Comb-Ceramic archeological sites are representations of nature spirits rather than of “higher” figures, suggesting their relatively greater importance in daily settings. (Shepherd: 1999) The tiny (2-3 cm tall) whimsical figure below is a clay nature spirit person from the Comb-Ceramic period, living at the National Museum of Finland.

clay spirit person

This ‘spirit person’ lives now in a Finnish museum, but this does not diminish its importance in shamanic belief structures.  All beings and natural features, all crafted items, were conceived of as alive in some fashion, and upon some plane.  One way of understanding is to locate ancestors as well as other types of beings in a universe ordered around the world tree.


In the view of Proto-Finns, as well as other northern Eurasian cultures and cultures of Proto-Scandinavia, the sky is held up by an enormous pole, mountain or tree—the tree of life—reaching up and attached to the North Star. In turn, the cosmos is made up of three primary levels. The middle world is where humans normally reside. The lower world is below the base of the pole or tree and is the home of the dead. The path to the upper world is above the peak of the central support and that world is the dwelling place of higher beings. Together, the lower and upper worlds make up the ‘other world’. As we will see below, only the shaman (noita in Finnish) among human persons was able to travel among the three worlds. (Siikala: 2002b)

There are two classes of shaman in Finnish tradition, the noita mentioned above, much more ancient, and the tietäjä  whose work began around the time of swidden and dairy agriculture. This is also the time of runic poetry, which gave rise to the Kalevala tradition.  I find the parallels to what the Celts labeled Druid in this latter phase.  It is placed, like the Celtic period priesthood, in the late Bronze Age, while  the earlier shamanism was Neolithic, early Ceramic. 


That is, from 1000 B.C.-500 B.C., there was a remarkable flowering of Finnish folk culture resulting in the first appearance of the ‘Kalevala metre runes’, or ‘magic poems’, and of the ecstatic practitioner known as the tietäjä (literally “one who knows”). The tietäjä was later to be celebrated in the ‘magic poems’ in the figure of the primordial sage Väinämöinen. Siikala (2002) says that by the end of the late Bronze Age, “In addition to the shamanic noita, people may have already…begun to rely on the tietäjä…whose position became established during the Iron Age.”

Vainamoinen, tietäjä

The Rise of Kalevala Era Shamanism: The Kalevala Metre Runes

Bards of the Pacific: the Legacy of Katharine Luomala

October 23, 2014

katharine-luomala-1955-1959_250x250 (image from Guggenheim collection)

Bards of the Pacific — the Legacy of Katharine Luomala

As the autumn season continues to wind down toward Samhain, it is a time to celebrate the legacy of the honored dead. This multi-part article is going to focus on the life’s work of my great aunt Katharine Luomala Phd, Polynesian folklorist.

As you hopefully know already, bards and oral instruction are a crucial part of the Druid path among humans, however it is now structured. So also was it throughout Polynesia. The peoples of these far-flung island nations are remarkably similar both genetically and culturally, part of a prehistoric diaspora from Southeast Asia that some argue stretched as far east as the Americas. Marked similarities in their cultural practices, traditions, and mythologies fascinate folklorists, who rushed to record what remained of the oral traditions after missionary and colonial contact in the early 20th century.

Much like the Neo-Pagan movement, modern Polynesians are rediscovering their cultural roots, and in the process rediscovering the preservation of their ancestral stories by dedicated academics like my ancestor, Dr. Luomala. Traditional practices are enriched, and new ones formed, with the help of such studies. And unlike many scholarly works, her writing is seldom dry and inaccessible. Her popular and synthesizing style earned her the 1984 Hawaii Award for Literature shortly before her death.

So how did a Finnish-American farm girl from northern Minnesota end up dedicating her life to collecting local myths at the University of Hawaii? For dedicated is the correct description. She never married; she traveled the world upon the conference circuit sharing with her peers, and was known as extraordinarily helpful to her grateful students. Her collected writings number in the hundreds. The University of California-Berkeley houses her collected papers and memorabilia.–+Dept.+of+Anthropology&subjectid=4015&item=3

Katharine, or as the family knew her, ‘Aunt Kai’, was a seldom seen legend to us kids back in the north woods. Born before World War I, she grew up tri-lingual in Finnish, Swedish and English on the Luomala dairying homestead in St Louis County near Duluth, Minnesota. Her childhood recollections of surviving the Great Cloquet Forest Fire she has shared with the Minnesota Historical Society.

The fire spared the homestead, which the family will eventually give to the local Historical Society as well, as a rare surviving example of 19th c. Finnish log construction; but for now it is still in use by Luomala descendants. I too grew up there, in a no-nonsense farming family that encouraged scholarship with a glass cabinet-filled library of 19th and early 20th century books against its plastered plank walls, including first editions of Rackham’s fairy tales, science texts, and the Kalevala.

From here young Katharine progressed in her academics as far as the distant paradise of California, attending the University of California-Berkeley, known for its strong contributions to anthropology, ethnology, and folklore.A stint of research in Navajo country interviewing elders introduced her to folklore as a discipline, so she threw herself into academia, getting her doctorate and relocating to the growing new University of Hawaii. Phd level was achieved in 1936.

She also served the US government during World War II, recommending largely ignored re-socialization measures for the Japanese citizens in internment camps. This was when she met the love of her life, a US Navy officer who was killed in action before he could divorce his first wife to be with her. They spent happy times together, I am sure, both in California and in Hawaii— but this, while serving as fodder for future romance novels by yours truly, is not how Katharine wished to be remembered. She poured out all that loving energy into her life’s work instead— capturing what she poetically described as the ‘voices on the wind’ in Polynesia.

Honolulu was to be her home for the rest of her long life. People hearing her surname would sometimes be surprised to see a leggy golden blond with a square jaw instead of a native Hawaiian. Finnish and Hawaiian do have some superficial similarities! But Dr. Luomala demonstrated admirable love and respect for her chosen culture. She dressed informally in the muumuu, even sending them to us little grand-nieces as presents, and wore fresh leis at least once a week. She never neglected present day traditions in her studies, as titles like Hula’ Ki’i: Hawaiian Puppetry demonstrate.

But her most famous works were about the great mythic figures of island legend, such as Maui of a Thousand Tricks, or the syncretic work I am going to discuss in later articles, Voices on the Wind.

Teaching came naturally to her. Online I was able to find this paean to her from one of the myriads of anthropology students she served to inspire.

There is also a commemorative volume in her honor, full of the work of those she influenced, and influenced her in return, in the field of Polynesian studies.

Here is a link to her Huge List of Publications  

I was surprised to find no good photo of Dr. Katharine Luomala online, so here is a remedy to that, scanned from a book jacket.


I leave to you the decision about whether she qualifies as a Bard herself, or is merely a celebrator of Bards. Next article will deal in more depth with the content of the message, the ancestral voices she preserved, much as Elias Lonnrot did for the Finnish national epic.  He interviewed the singers of Kalevala and compiled their songs into one huge cycle. I suspect this is the true inspiration for my ancestor Dr. Luomala’s work in Polynesia.


Lorde’s Suppressed Grammy Award acceptance speech (Full Transcript) 26 January 2014

February 20, 2014

Lorde’s Suppressed Grammy Award acceptance speech (Full Transcript) 26 January 2014.

Lorde's Suppressed Grammy Award acceptance speech (Full Transcript) 26 January 2014

Samhain wisdom from the Crafty Kitchen Witch

October 31, 2013

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep

Do not stand at my grave …and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

by Mary Elizabeth Frye – 1932

(6) Facebook.

The veil between worlds thins. Ancestors visit. Beloved and not so beloved dead are close enough to touch.

(6) Facebook

What will you let in, what will you banish, before the wheel of the year turns deeper into the winter’s dark?  Choose wisely.   Leap high over the fire.

  Seeds of spring are tucked in now to rise again after the season of sleep.  On the other side of the world they are already rising.

Make room.

Psychological violence

April 15, 2013

This is Nimue Brown, novelist and Druid, getting to the heart of a problem. It does not take fisticuffs or weapons to injure another human. It only takes denigration.

art by annabrixthomsen-- Shame

Druid Life

The brain is a physical structure which is shaped by what we do with it – learning, practice, habit, life experience, memory – this is all part of the mix. Our minds are not amorphous things separate from our bodies but real, tangible structures that respond to what happens to them. Hit someone in the leg with a hammer and you will get nasty bruises, and possibly a broken bone. As a culture we take that kind of thing seriously. However, we seem to assume the mind is a whole other thing. Violent assaults on the psyche are not assumed to cause breakages in the same way. Now, when it comes to considering criminal damage, it will always be hard to produce evidence of psychological trauma, but I see no reason why that should make it culturally acceptable. I find myself wondering if depression and anxiety are to psychological damage…

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