BY E.J. OAKLORE
I was never so rich as when I was surrounded by like-minded people I loved and who loved me back. In early August of 2003 my mentor and friend Inion had made the trip to West Virginia and brought me, my familiar, and my belongings back with her to upstate New York. She and her family lived in a century-old farm house in a rural village near Cossayuna Lake. There she invited me to live with her, and her family warmly embraced me as one of their own, as did the small fellowship of Druids she had brought together and nurtured in the years since I’d known her.
Immediately upon my arrival in New York I felt a sense of relief and belonging. Finally, for the first time in a long time I felt like I was … home.
Inion was a homesteader, every bit devoted to a traditional style and old-world-inspired existence. The kitchen in her home featured a long, hand-made harvest-style table and a genuine antique wood-fire stove. Pre-packaged or processed foods were never served in her home. Rather, the family enjoyed a rich diet of homemade foods made from scratch and seasoned with herbs from Inion’s own garden. The breads were always homemade from scratch – being every bit Irish, she had a penchant for soda bread – and the teapot, it seemed, never left the stove. The tea served in her home was often made from herbs she’d wildcrafted herself. Bundles and bundles of herbs and flowers hung drying in the kitchen and sunroom windows. But for the presence of a few modern conveniences – like the internet and cell phones – it was a true homestead; a richly Pagan home. I was enchanted by it. Who wouldn’t be?
She taught me what real traditional Paganism looked like; what it meant to not just perform the occasional ritual, but to actually live one’s spirituality. She taught me what it meant to bring the magick and mystery of being Pagan into everyday life.
Our conversations around the harvest table were rich and enlightening, deeply exploring subjects like history, metaphysics, spirituality and the cosmology of the universe. We spent hours waxing philosophical as we sipped tea on a candle-lit porch looking out over a hill where the sunsets were as if the Gods Themselves painted the sky in brilliant colors every night just for the two of us. It was a magickal time in my life – truly.
Those evenings on the porch provided me with some of the most valuable insights I’ve ever had, expanding my thinking in ways I’d never imagined before. Inion’s inborn natural wisdom flowed like the Nine Waves of Blessing across my mind and my heart. She helped me, in no small way, achieve a much greater understanding of my own self and who I was meant to be.
During one of those idyllic nights, Inion once asked me, “What would the world be like if seen through a Druid’s eyes?” I had to set my teacup down for this one! I can remember thinking as leaned back in my rocking chair and folded my hands up under my chin, that the measure of wisdom doesn’t so much rely on the answer as it does on the mere contemplation of the question. … Oh and she had just given me a lot to contemplate!
“I imagine nature would be elevated,” I began, “into a position of noble equality. It would be revered and protected as a sentient living and Divine presence. It would no longer be seen as something to simply dominate and exploit for wealth, entertainment or power. The mystery and magick of nature would reemerge after centuries of slumber and we – humankind – would suddenly be filled with wonder.”
At this, Inion simply sipped her tea and looked out over the bucolic view in front of us. In that moment her eyes seemed to show the very sense of wonder I was describing. “Within the wonder and mystery of nature is the flame of hope for mankind,” she said.
I would later write in an essay on the subject that, “Druids kindle and tend that flame with great care, full in the knowledge that what good is performed today, shall forever be felt in the years and generations to come. Humankind must not remain alienated from the very home of our spirit, but return to it, love it and celebrate that union.”