Druids On The Mountain

Every year the FoDLA druids hold a summer conclave. This July (21st and 22nd) it was held in southern California in the Los Padres National Forest on Mt. Pinos. The summit of this beautiful mountains rises more than eight and half thousand feet, high above the arid country below, its slopes clad in beautiful Jeffrey pine and spruce forests. For the Chumash tribes the mountain was considered center of the cosmos and a place of perfect balance. Its open woods, high meadows, and looming rock formations are imbued with the numinous. I can say it was an honor to receive my initiation/ordination surrounded by the beauty of this sanctuary.


The forest is a lesson in resilience. The pines bore burn scars, yet most of these trees are vital, obviously flourishing. Fire is a part of the cycle of these ecosystems. There are even species of pine whose cones only open and disperse seeds in a fire. On the first day we went out to connect with the land, as this was a new site for us. The forest was singing as the wind played through the boughs of the trees. The place felt open and welcoming. Stellar’s jays called out. Here and there were vistas of a valley below. There were signs of an old fire, perhaps from a decade or so ago. One majestic pine had been partially hollowed out in the fire, a cavity just big enough to enter was created in the trunk. Within jewel like globes of resin hung suspended on the blackened bark. They caught the light of the sun. it was literally and spiritually illuminating to step into this cavity. I meditated on my own growing back from fires that have raged and burned at times in my own life.


When I emerged I had to immediately sit down on the ground and compose a poem.

Here it is:


A light in darkness

Wisdom of underwood

Jewels from scars

Gold  from ash

Knowledge of fire

Red words of the wise

Clasped in cave of Druid Tree.


Before my initiation I prayed in a meadow of lupine and iris. A Monarch butterfly lazily flew under the brilliant blue sky at this 8,300 foot altitude; it had had a long journey like myself. Bees and songbirds trembled through the flowers. Chipmunks and lizards scurried about. Life overflowed its cauldron. Of the rite I won’t speak, but everything arranged into a perfect moment. My thanks to all who have helped me on this way.



I’ve been meaning for a while to mention the publication of Mandragora, the latest anthology of esoteric poetry from Scarlet Imprint but have been sidetracked by life. So here it is. Mandragora: Further Explorations in Esoteric Poeisis is a wonder to the senses, a tribute to book arts that is reminiscent of something from the Edwardian era with its exquisite cover of copper shot crushed cloth and the image of an alluring female mandrake (it’s also available in affordable paperback and e-book formats). I am always impressed by books that reward the sense of touch, as well as sight. I am also impressed by what is within (yes, disclosure— I am a contributor): a range of impressive poems and insightful essays on the art and practice of poetry as a magical, visionary and spiritual practice.

Editor Ruby Sara starts the book off with an apt and illuminating quote from Heidegger: “Poets are the mortals who, singing earnestly of the wine-god, sense the trace of the fugitive gods, stay on the gods’ tracks, and so trace for their kindred mortals the way toward the turning…to be a poet in a destitute time means: to attend, singing, to the trace of the fugitive gods. This is why the poet in the time of the world’s night utters the holy.”

The book includes a rich grouping of essays, including my own “The Head of Orpheus: Hesiod, Plato and the Muses”, an exploration of what I call the poet’s truth in many cultures and the demotion of such visionary truth (roughly speaking, myth) in the western world by Plato in stark contrast to the views of archaic Greece. Phil Legard’s “Black Venus & Wise Hermes” touching on poetry, grimoires, Hermetica and the ‘violence of the imagination’ wrought by inspired poetry and “A Spell To Awaken England” on Ted Hughes (perhaps best known by Americans as the husband of Sylvia Plath) by Peter Grey are fascinating forays. Alexander Cummins’s “On Cut-Up” is a brilliant piece exploring the magic of cut ups, the technique especially associated with postmodern magician and experimental novelist William Burroughs but with precursors in Dada poetics and related collage practices. “Cut up is an explicitly magical re-articulation of language, art and experience.” As a practitioner myself I can attest to that (some of my own cut up poems can be found in Maintenant 4 and 5). There’s an intriguing look at the Portuguese poet and writer Fernando Pessoa who wrote as a legion of identities by Jose Leitao and a piece on the poetics of ritual theater by Australian performer Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule. Erynn Laurie has an illuminating essay, “Burying the Poet” on Gaelic incubatory practices, from which a quote: “She {Brigid} presides over the holy well at the center of being where fire and water meet to produce poetry, prophecy, and magic. She is the mystery at the heart of the hazel, the spots on the sides of the salmon, the smith who creates us anew.” And P.  Sufenas Virius Lupus writes his own ars poetica in “The Poet as God-Seducer”, an interesting take on the art, (though I was surprised to see the assertion that only gods but not goddesses seduce mortals in classical tradition; well, how about Aphrodite bearing Aeneas by Anchises for starters?).

T. Thorn Coyle (whose poem riffs on the famous Song of Amergin), Valentina Cano, Peter Dube, Mark Saucier, Erynn Laurie and Jennifer Lawrence are a few of the poets whose work stood out for me. And of course there are some by me: “Lava Flowers’ and “Keeper of the Well” (for Nuadhu).

The publishers Peter Grey and Alkistis Dimech and editor Ruby Sara have outdone themselves in this outstanding collection.