Views of a Kiwi Druidry

My name is many. My mothers name was Wright. Her family line came from Paul, Cornwall and her ancestor travelled to this land in 1856. Her mothers name was Williams. I was born in 1973 to two New Zealanders, in Flint Michigan, USA as my dad was then on scholarship with GMI. My people and my story, it seems, has always been one of travelling.
I grew up in Kelson and later in Lower Hutt. near Wellington, NZ. We moved to Wanganui when I was 12 and I left there when I was 17, lived briefly in Palmerston North and then moved to New Plymouth, Taranaki. The ocean and rivers have always been deep in my bones.
As a young person I started to question the Christian upbringing I was brought up with, and I went looking for other ways of understanding our place in this world. I remember taking all the books from the public library, in the ‘alternative religions’ section. I found there Taoism which resonated deeply with me, and I found a book written by Stuart Piggot, named simply ‘The Druids’. I found a home. A spiritual home. Others that think like me – the young me thought. My grandmother was a Quaker but married into my grandfathers Presbyterian faith. I told them I was a druid when I was 18. My grandfather commented: “I’m not surprised – your ancestors are Celts”. My grandmother said: “as long as you have faith it doesn’t matter what form it takes”. I loved them deeply and I was with both of them when they passed from this life to whatever comes next.
I have had many deep spiritual experiences here in my home, Aotearoa – the Land of the Long White Cloud. One vivid memory was when I was a teenager full of teenage angst and distress. I walked the land my uncle then owned – on Waiheke Island which is off the mainland of Auckland. It was raining and stormy and I walked and sang and cried all of my adolescent pain into the rain. I sat eventually on the beach of the bay. It is set by a mud flat, against primary Kauri forest. Kauri have gum much like amber and is a treasure.
I sat and cried my teenage pain and confusion as the rain washed me clean. I was taken in that moment …. ‘they’ sang to me. Voices I could hear, but … not a language I could give a name to. Ancient language. The song of the land. They told me to cry, that they would take my pain. That mother earth, Papatuanuku in our language, would hold and love me. That they would hear me and help me heal. I thought then that they were the voices of the land, spirit of the place. It seemed to me that they were the language that later informed the way that the people who came here, later called Māori, Tangata Whenua (people of the land).. were influenced by. The sound of the stones rolling in on the tide. The deep song of the stars at night. The wonderful volcanic energy. My home. They sang to me and I knew I belonged. Kauri became my tree then. I have Kauri gum with me at my home, given to me that night. I also have shells from that beach. Little broken shells of a beach, a sacred place. My uncle later named it ‘Koha Bay’. Koha is an offering, a non-defined gift. A free will if you can, and only as much or as little that you offer.
My druid studies introduced me to such amazing writers, hard to find books out here in those days and certainly challenging to find anything relating to Druidry or pagan spiritual beliefs specific to a New Zealand context. But I read books by Philip Carr-Gomm and by Emma Restall-Orr and Philip Shallcrass amongst others.
Moons later, in about 1999, I found an advertisement for a ‘New Spirit Festival’ and one of the speakers was Philip Carr-Gomm. I remembered things I had read that he has written. I liked his style so I went to his talk. I liked him – he had bare feet and an All Black t-shirt on. He was open and honest and real. Something I had rarely found in such holders of spiritual practice. He was running a workshop and even though it was enormously expensive to me at the time, a young student, I attended.
And the magic unfolded. I met Philip and became part of the Grove of the Summer Stars, based at Pukerua Bay, near Wellington (NZ). Later we had many magical ceremonies and workings there and other places in this land. I was privileged to meet Steph and their girls. My Druidry continued to unfold as I took my first job within my field in Taranaki where I lived from age 18 – 33. I worked in a Kaupapa Māori organisation as a dual diagnosis clinician. Addiction and mental health. I slowly worked out how to weave the British Druidry that fascinated and sang to me, with my own beliefs and the ways of my land – Te Ao Māori… the old ways that I was so very blessed to have shared with me in Taranaki. Pre-European ways, before the British came to these lands. There are many weaves and strands in that statement, but I will leave it there for now.
Philip and Steph fascinated and intrigued me with their tales of their lands. Their OBOD camps and the magical creatures that were part of all of that. I slowly had become part of an online druid community and met fellow seekers from around the world. Then I went on a weekend course with Philip entitled ‘Singer, Shaman, Sage’ on a beautiful wee island. My life changed forever. The land sang to me. It told me to leave my life and go adventuring.
I left Aotearoa in June 2005 and flew to Albion. My friend met me there and drove me to Oxford, and that same day we went to Wayland’s Smithy and walked the Ridgeway and then went to the Rollright Stones. This may all be blurred together now in my mind. But I know it was magical. I was struck by so many layers of voices and cultures and histories. So different to my own home. So similar too.
I travelled from Oxford down to Lewes and was hosted by Philip and Steph at their home. I got to meet Damh. Philip then drove me to visit the Long Man of Wilmington and later to Glastonbury for the OBOD summer gathering. There I met with people from our online community, from all over the world. We met at the George and Pilgrim. Many of us also belong to and work with BDO.
I travelled then to Ilfracombe, down to Cornwall to visit ancestral graves, and later to Swindon to attend an OBOD camp as they were back then. I found home. Tribe. Home. BDO was part of all of that weave, and I met Greywolf and many others who gather still as BDO.
I was crewing so that I could afford to be there, working hard to build a camp from an empty field, respecting place, respecting land, respecting people. We were a tight crew and to this day we are all mostly still in touch. My brothers and sisters. For me that is Druidry – a weave of kin and love and blood and bone. I met Ady. We worked well together, lugging great carpets to line the yurts, digging compost holes – he had hard graft, I had kiwi resilience. We all formed a tight bond as we worked and lived and ate and pooed together. Tribe.
During our camp Ronald Hutton and Ana came and offered a magical working to reawaken the Spirit of the Wild Woods. We danced, and I danced with Ady. I knew in that moment I wanted to dance with him forever. He was the May King of the camp at that time. It was Lughnassadh. I was born on 3rd August and so celebrated my birthday at that time. There was an amazing hot-tub and Leonids flew across the sky. We had such fun and I fell in love with a Cornish king – a Saxon man.
We travelled as I had a talk booked at Druidcon up in Glasgow, and I then travelled to Iona. We travelled 1000 miles in Scotland tracing some of my ancestry and also as many Neolithic places as we could find. It reminded me of my home, my ancestry but also my home. Aotearoa. Land of the Long White Cloud. 12,000 miles away through the earth. My home.
I went home in November 2005, and later Ady joined me in Palmerston North as I was doing my PhD at Massey University and employed as a tutor. We were blessed with children and that unfolded the rest of the story.
It has been a privilege for me to walk with many people of this land, Tangata Whenua, and have ancient knowledge shared with me. It has been wonderful to share my home and language and culture with Ady. I am comfortable and proud as a druid in Aotearoa. For me our path dances beautifully with indigenous beliefs.
I watched as Philip Shallcrass started sharing his course offerings and recognised the content … deeply. I recommended to Ady that he would find resonance with the content. Animism, as a catch-all phrase, resonates deeply for both of us. Mud and blood and bond. Roots. This is true to my knowledge and to my Druidry.
I worked hard to make sense of what Druidry was teaching me about elements and culture and place. I worked hard to weave it into something that resonated meaningfully for me, here in my land, my climate, my geography, my culture. I was honoured to do the opening ceremony for our first Magick Earth festival here. Ady and I have contributed to many celebrations and rituals over the years. One thing I love the best is dropping the ‘script’ and going with spirit. Several times for us… this had meant someone of the land, Tangata Whenua, has spontaneously called out a kai karanga – a song/greeting/welcome….. it always thrills me and warms my blood. To know the ancestors of this land welcome and embrace the work we do.
I spent a lot of time – a year or more… working out how to make sense of the wheel of the year. North for us is hot – Fire. South is the Antarctic – cold – earth. So many layers of Druidry from the northern hemisphere are introduced and intrusive species for us here, threatening our indigenous wildlife and flora and fauna. But the land still dances as we must dance. Weaving it all together so that it is cohesive and resonant and healthy and vibrant and whole.
I am 6th generation of this land. My land. My home. I am a druid. I am married to a British druid. We were married at Samhuinn at Pukerua Bay by a druid with a druid handfasting that is legally allowed in our country. Our children are woven of two lands, entwined together like ancient roots of ancient trees, like two dragons in an embrace. We embrace our Druidry and we weave our ancestry and the blood and bones of this land. Aotearoa – Land of the Long White Cloud. Druidry it seems to me, to weave easily beyond blood and bone and mud and stone…. To the very elements of our beings. The Mauri. The divine spirit.
One breath….
Blessings, Kirsti