Worshipping the Sun of God

Damh explains what guides his worship and what a modern Druid does

Druidry has no written sacred book. The book I use is nature herself, and I take my lessons from the world around me. The seasons are an important part of this, the Sun’s relationship to the Earth.

I celebrate a sequence of eight seasonal festivals, one about every six weeks, to mark the turning of the ‘Wheel of the Year’. Because it’s a wheel, there is no real starting point, but I will start this explanation at the Winter Solstice.

The Winter Solstice is the time I celebrate the rebirth of the Sun. Solstice means ‘Sun in stasis’, and this is the longest night of the year. The Sun’s arc across the sky has got as low as it’s going to get.

The Sun is seen as the young God, reborn of the Goddess, like a tiny candle flame he flickers in the darkness. For about 4 days the arc of the Sun remains the same (hence the name of the day), but then on about the 25th December, the arc starts to get visibly higher, and the days get longer. So to celebrate Xmas at this time is natural for me. As others celebrate the birth of the Son of God, I celebrate the rebirth of the Sun of God.

Next is Imbolc around the 1st February. This is the first of the agricultural festivals, and it’s linked with the first snowdrops, and the birth of the first lambs. It is the first of three Spring festivals, and looking around at the land I often find it hard to relate this time of year to Spring, but it is there when I look hard enough. This festival is sacred to the Goddess Brighid, and is often celebrated with an ‘Eisteddfod’ or a gathering of Bards, where poem, song and story are offered to this ancient and great Goddess.

The Spring Equinox arrives next around the 21st March. This is the time of equal day and night. It is one of the cusps of the year where light hangs in balance. After this time the days will be longer than the nights, early flowers are already in bloom, but the cold is still with us. This is a time when I plant seeds, not only physical seeds, but my thoughts and ideas for the coming year.

As the wheel turns so it brings us Beltane on the 1st of May, still celebrated as May Day. A time of fertility and the old start of Summer. Again, as this is an agricultural festival so it’s date is often marked by the blossoming of the May tree, the Hawthorn. ‘Don’t cast a clout, til May is out’ is the old saying. Meaning don’t cast off your coat until the May blossoms. At this time I see that the tiny God who was born on the Winter Solstice has grown into a strapping youth, and on this day he goes into the Greenwood, there to lay with the Goddess of the Land, and their union brings fertility to the land, and all who live on it.

The Summer Solstice is next. Probably the festival mostly associated with Druids, but that is really due to the modern Druid association with Stonehenge. In reality it is the relationship with the Wheel of the Year in its entirety that is important. But the Summer Solstice marks the time where the arc of the Sun is at its zenith. And after about four days, the days will begin to get shorter. I see this day being a battle between the Oak and Holly Kings – the Oak King being the God of the Waxing Year, the Holly, the God of the Waning Year. They are brothers but fight for control of the light, and on the Summer Solstice the Holly King wins. Even though the warmest weather is yet to come, the light is waning. But I still celebrate the Sun at it’s most powerful on this day. If I can I’ll stay up all night at one of the local sacred sites, on a hill, as a vigil for the Sun’s power, and hopefully the sky will be clear and I’ll be able to see the Sun as he rises on his day of power.

Lughnasadh, the first of the Harvest festivals is next. The child God has lain with the Goddess and the seed of the future has been planted. He has been at his most powerful, and at Lughnasadh I see him as an old man with a crooked cane, symbolised by the corn in the field. He has become John Barleycorn, and he now gives of himself so I can have bread as the corn is cut. Lughnasadh is a time of great celebration and games. Sharing the bread or body of the God transformed is part of the ceremony that marks this time of year.

This leads to the Autumn Equinox, and the second harvest where light and dark are once more in equal balance, and I bring in the berries of the land. The Earth is pregnant from the union at Beltane, and the fruits of the land are a symbol of this fertility.

And then comes Samhain, Summer’s End, still marked to this day as ‘Hallowe’en’. The last of the harvest festivals as the apples, sloes, and hips are collected. On this night it is said that the veil that separates the living from the dead is thin. So I think about my friends and relations who have already made that trip to the Summerlands. Sometimes I will lay an extra place at the dinner table so they can join me in my meal, but whatever happens I will share a symbolic feast with them, often of bread, salt, honey and wine (not all at once of course). It is also the night that the Wild Hunt, led by Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the Faerie, flies across the sky, collecting all of those souls who have passed away, to take them to the Isle of the Blessed. I offer a prayer that on this night, the Hunt passes me by, leaving me to see another day.

The leaves are turning gold, and some are already falling. The Goddess, like the God, has different faces, a Maiden in Spring, a Mother in Summer/Autumn, and a Crone in Winter. At Samhain I am very aware of her Crone aspect, bringing the coldness of her breath as strong winds and gales that strip the trees of leaves, so that they will nourish the seeds below. And there the circle turns once more as the Winter Solstice returns with the promise of rebirth, and the life of the seeds nourished by the gifts of Winter reach for the Sun, and our lives turn ever onward.

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)
Umaar Kazmi
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“They should be on bended knee apologising”: Chris Williamson warns Corbynsceptic Labour MPs

The MP for Derby North on his return to Parliament, why Labour won in marginal seats, and how party unity could have led to a Labour government.

At 5am on election morning, Chris Williamson was ceremonially tearing up some binbags. Two dustbin liners had been taped over the gold and green “Chris Williamson MP” sign on his Derby North constituency office since 2015. When it was announced that he’d won England’s most marginal constituency back from the Tories, he headed down to the old office with his team, and they tore the binbags down, dust raining upon them.

“Those black bin liners taped round were like a reminder whenever you glanced up that, one day, it’d be nice to pull that off,” he grins. In his two years away from the Commons, having been beaten by 41 votes last election, Williamson had been using the office as an advice centre.

Before then, the former bricklayer had represented the Midlands constituency from 2010 to 2015, having served as a local councillor – and twice as council leader – for two decades.


All photos: Umaar Kazmi​

Now he’s back, and squatting in a vegan-friendly café along the river from Parliament as he waits to be given an office. His signature flatcap sits on the table beside a glass of sparkling water.

“I’m not a fan of that place anyway, really, it’s horrible and oppressive, and not really fit for purpose,” he says. “That’s the slight downside. It goes with the territory I suppose. If we could move out of Westminster, that would be nice – somewhere like Birmingham or Manchester or Derby even – the centre of the country, isn’t it?”

“New Labour’s dead, buried and finished”

Perhaps this distaste for the bubble is to be expected, as Williamson is an ardent Corbynite. I followed him on the campaign trail before the election, and he was championing Jeremy Corbyn’s policies and leadership on every doorstep. It seemed a rather brave move among many undecided voters at the time, but has now been vindicated. You can almost tell from his trainers, crumpled polo shirt and contended expression that Williamson is supremely comfortable in the most left-wing Labour party since he became an MP.

“New Labour’s dead,” he says, his eyes twinkling. “No doubt about that. It’s dead, buried and finished. It's a regrettable chapter in our history. Historians will think ‘my God, what were they doing?!’” he cries.

Williamson believes he won due to Jeremy Corbyn’s character, the manifesto, a “fantastic” local campaign, and an “outstanding” national campaign. He thanks Momentum activists rallying so many people that they often had 20 teams canvassing simultaneously in his seat. And he praises an online campaign that targeted different demographics – Ukip voters in particular would mention his videos.

“If they’d been more supportive then we’d have got over the line”

“We targeted some elements of our campaign to specific cohorts,” he says. “For example, we did a message online to people who had supported Ukip previously about how a Labour government would genuinely take back control, take on the corporations, bring back the utilities into public ownership – rather than controlled by international, global corporations many of which are ripping us off.”

Williamson adds that young people were enthused by the pledges to scrap tuition fees, abolish zero-hours contracts and raise the minimum wage. He also saw Tory voters switch, attracted by a policy programme that he describes as “common sense” rather than radical.

He admits that people warned him to “disassociate yourself from Jeremy if you’re going to win” when he began campaigning. But he tells me he would “have sooner lost than gone down that road”.

But he has strong words for those who were more sceptical, saying they “let down their members” and lamenting that “if they’d been more supportive over the intervening period, then we’d have probably got over the line”.

Williamson calls on all the Corbynsceptic MPs to apologise: “They should be down on their bended knees and apologising, in fact. Not just to Jeremy but to the entire Labour movement.”

However, he believes his party is “more united” now than it has been for the 41 years he’s been a member, and is happy to “move on” – expressing his gratitude for how much warmth he’s received from his MP colleagues, “given how critical I’ve been of them!”

It may be Chris Williamson’s time in the sun – or the “sunshine of socialism” as he puts it, quoting Keir Hardie – but he does have jitters about his majority. It is 2,015 – the digits matching the election year when he was defeated by the Tories. “It’s a reminder that we lost then!” he laughs.

> Now read Anoosh on the campaign trail in Derby North with Chris Williamson

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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