How did I become a Druid?

This week's Faith Column is written by Damh who devotes his first blog to explaining how his interes

Since I was a child I’ve loved Fairy tales - stories of myth, old folk tales of the land, stories of fairies, giants, heroes, and magic. I always felt there were places on this island where another reality was close by, and that doorways existed to these other realms that coexist on the same land as our own, but at a different vibration.

To help discover what you are, you often have to realise what you are not. I remember going to Sunday School as a child. Each week we learned a different quote from the Bible. I was learning about the religion of a land that felt so far away from me. I also thought it strange that the Bible was seen as a spiritual book that contained deep religious meaning, but the old tales of the Gods of this island were just ‘myth’, and most of those weren’t even mentioned at school. I saw around me that some people seemed to have a fear of the unknown held within these old stories – almost as if we shouldn’t look too deeply or we might find something distasteful, or even ‘evil’. But I did look, and I found a place of beauty and wonder, a hidden but well-trodden pathway through a woodland that lead to a clearing in the forest.

There I met Herne, the old Pagan Horned God, I talked with Blodeuwedd the Owl, and she told me her mysteries, I looked to the Sun and found Lugh, and within the crescent Moon I heard the voice of Ceridwen, Goddess of Bards. I learned to love the drama of folk custom, to revere the Spirits of Nature, and to write and sing of that love through my songs and growing interest in the Bardic tradition within Druidry.

People often write of the moment of realisation of their own spirituality as ‘coming home’, and it certainly felt like this for me. The more I explored my new home, this island’s mysteries, the more I found, and the more I fell in love. In a human world that often seems so clinical and separate from nature, the path of Druidry heals that separation. As I looked deeper I didn’t find anything distasteful or ‘evil’ at all, anything but! I found my place within life. I discovered my relationship with the animals, plants and minerals around me, and found that everything I did affected something else, that I was a part of all life, and with that realisation also came responsibility to be more aware of my actions and consumer decisions. The world through the eyes of a Druid is a magical place of wonder and beauty, of colour, and life.

For further information about Druidry click here and for Damh’s personal website click here.

Damh (pronounced Darv) is a modern-day Bard whose spirituality, and love of folk tradition, is expressed through his music, storytelling and poetry. He is an Honorary Bard of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD)
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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.