Commentary on Reading Buhner’s Ensouling Language

Review by Karl Schlotterbeck, MA, CAS, LP - Archdruid

Photo of Karl Schlotterveck

Karl Schlotterbeck

I first heard of Buhner’s writings when a shamanic teacher recommended one of his earlier books, [amazon_link id="B004WLCSC6" target="_blank" ]The Lost Language of Plants [/amazon_link]  (2002 by Chelsea Green Publishing). In that book he wrote about the deep relationship between humanity and the natural world and how much of our human world is not only losing its ability to communicate with the natural world, but also altering it through our use of pharmaceuticals, most of which pass through the body unchanged into the environment.

[amazon_image id="1594773823" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Ensouling Language: On the Art of Nonfiction and the Writer's Life[/amazon_image]

Buhner advocates knowing things so deeply that there is a response from them. It is an active and interactive perception that does not just see, but is also aware of being seen by what, to the blind, is a lifeless object.

Thus, he advocates more than a writing style, but a deep way of being that has escaped many of the schools of psychology that purport to help us, and most of the religious movements that want to tell us how to live. He asks for nothing less than an awareness and integration of the imaginal, feeling and thinking realms – not just having emotions and thoughts, but developing the capacity to feel into a subject, to be able to touch something from a distance – a form on non-physical touch. He calls for integrity and being aware where one’s baggage interferes with one’s intent, and the kind of choice one has to make about reality.

Writers in our time are caught up in a great conflict between two competing worldviews. It is in many ways the great problem our species now faces: whether the world is alive, filled with intelligence and soul, or whether it is just a ball of resources hurtling around the sun, there for our use in any way we see fit. (p. 370)

This, of course, has implications regarding what rights and responsibilities we grant corporations, social movements, governments, trees, stones and soil. Our treatment of the vulnerable will reveal who we are; and we begin to see a link among women, children, the elderly, ill, homeless, poor, mentally ill – and the environment. Do we recognize value and worth only when something (or someone) is of use to us? Only for what can be mined from it? Or do we walk through the world with respect and honor, recognizing that we are part of a community – not only of people, but of spirits, creatures, stars and the earth itself? Thus, the act of writing, when done well, reflects a deep awareness (both objective and subjective), and deals honestly with suppositions about the nature of life that must be examined, decisions about the distribution of power (in all its forms) that will be healthy for a community, and how we place value on people and things, and whether one can actually tolerate truth.

In America there is debate about whether corporations have the same privacy rights as actual human beings, or whether real people have a right to know the truth about how the power of wealth is used to influence their lives; there is debate about the role of government in business, economic and sexual worlds, and about who has what responsibility for the vulnerable, and whether we as a community care at all about who owns our natural resources and who can profit from them.

Unfortunately much of the debate is framed in sound-bite-sized thoughts passed around with shrill commentaries, avoiding any deep thinking or examination of principles beyond surface allegiances. Instead, we have packaged opinions manufactured by both sides of the debate, poured into our media outlets with a force dependent not on their truth but on the wealth of their backers – as if the more times it is said the more true it must be.

This debate is healthy and necessary; its execution, however, has been dishonest. The Cup of Truth will have been shattered many times over; the Goddess of the Land will have withdrawn her favor at the lack of honor in too many leaders; tribal lords in the form of corporate bosses and religious tyrants run amuck like warlords who justify their predatory nature with religious, political or anarchic clichés under cover of some self-appointed “divine” mandate. This is not so different from Middle Eastern countries with their hunger to free control from an autocratic power only to be faced with tribal warlords who will fill the vacuum. The ordinary people who want to live, want to raise their families and protect their children, to do some honest work and to enjoy what this world’s beauty has to offer are used for fodder in military, political and economic warfare. It seems little different from what is happening here in America: we can see the dissatisfaction in things as they’ve been here.

In Western culture, it may well be the poets, writers and other artists who have been carrying the mantle of Druidry, seeking obedience to their gods, celebrating the life found in all of nature, and reminding us of the truths lost in media onslaught, the race for the next dollar and the manufactured propaganda of our politicians, corporate behemoths, separatist militias and religious movements.

Any piece of Nature, broken off, immediately begins to degrade. Everything here in this place is meant to be biodegradable (including ourselves). (p. 368)

What might all this mean for Druids? I propose that we should expect honest, evidence-based and respectful debate. There’s hardly one answer here, but some application of the principles of Truth, of Honor, and of Courage should carry some weight – perhaps to inspire us to hold our leaders (both governmental and business) accountable to community values, to the ancestors, and to the Natural world that we share and hope to pass down to our children. This is not an easy road. If we honor truth, we must honor it not only in our own positions, but also where it might be found in the position of our “enemies.” In America, it seems we have two great forces: one shaped by its fear, hatred and drive for conformity; and one by its guilt, lack of commitment and spinelessness.

It’s not the assertions of the right or the left that is my first allegiance, but what keeps us in healthy relationship with Nature, what honors our ancestors and what brings me alive. Is what I profess consistent with reverence for the Nature Spirits that, from the beginning of time, have given us the means to live? Does it honor our ancestors, which includes our elders who are soon to become ancestors, and the children for whom we will one day be an ancestor? Are my philosophies worthy of the gods I say I worship? If we approach this with honor, with truth, with awareness and integrity, it would be of great service to ourselves, our families, our communities, our world, our relationship with the Otherworld, and our Druidism.

[amazon_enhanced asin="1594773823" /]


by Steward of the Wood

Photo of Steward of the Wood at the Lia Fail

Steward of the Wood

Tara!  Tara…symbolizes one of the most celebrated, sacred sites for all Celts, especially those of us with Druid connections.  “And here I am…at Tara,” Steward of the Wood said out loud to himself.  “Over the years of training in Druidry, I envisioned walking here among the Ancient Ones, gaining sensory images and trying to learn and understand the teachings,” he thought.  And he made it.  Little did he know, or could envision, what was about to unfold.  Magick was afoot.

The Hill of Tara nestles into the landscape a few miles southeast of the sacred Boyne River.  Visible from Tara, the ancient passage tombs of Knowth and Bru na Boinne watch silently but powerfully from hill tops about ten miles to the northeast.  During ancient ceremonies, fires on these sites could be seen from one hill to another.  This part of Ireland is truly a sacred landscape.

Arriving late in the day, Steward walked the site just before dusk, the liminal time when the Veil between the mundane world and the Other World assumes the form of mist.  This is a time when the Ancestors and Nature Spirits roam freely among mortals and time is ephemeral.   The Goddess Boann blessed him as the overcast sky began to rain lightly enhancing the feeling of being in the time and space between worlds.  It was easy to see why the Ancestors chose this site as it is equal in elevation to the other hills as far as the eye could see.  On a clearer, brighter day, Steward would be able to see for miles in any direction.  Lush, thick, verdant grass covered the entire site with a few scattered hawthorn trees (faery trees); the earthen mounds were the only things that interrupted the field of view.   It was quiet to the point of being eerie with only an occasional bird flying over and sheep peacefully grazing.  A pastoral smell of earth, grass, and sheep manure, permeated the air but it was gentle and pleasant.  It was the smell of the earth… of Danu.

Photo of The Mound of the Hostages - Tara, Ireland

The Mound of the Hostages - Tara

Sensing the presence of ancient spirits, Steward communed with the Triad: Gods and Goddesses, Nature Spirits, and Ancestors.  He introduced himself as a Druid with Ancestors from Ireland and asked them to allow him to visit and commune with them, gaining wisdom and understanding of this sacred site and how it fit with the patterns of the earth.  Steward called on Ogma, the God of wisdom and magick, to teach him and help him gain the wisdom of a Druid.  After a lifetime of studying earth wisdom and spirituality and dedicating himself to becoming a Druid four years ago, Steward longed to learn.  “I feel impatient with myself,” he mused.  Druidism has become integral to his way of life and he savored the signs of progress.  “Sometimes it is hard not to question whether I am making enough progress,” he thought.  “Open up and be present in this time and place,” he said out loud as if to chide.

After pausing a few minutes atop the Mound of the Hostages, Steward of the Wood headed south toward the flat topped, earthen mound that comprises the site of Cormac’s House.  The ankle-high, wet grass brushed his boots as he walked, making a faint swooshing sound.  Light rain continued to fall, ensuring life for the lush vegetation.  He mounted the low hill and emerged on a flat top which was perhaps 50 feet wide.  “Ancestors and Nature Spirits, I come to you this day asking for permission to enter your sacred space and commune with you,” he declared in a loud clear voice.  Their consent enveloped him in calmness; and a tingling, excited feeling overtook Steward as they welcomed a Druid in their midst.

There in the middle of the hill was the fabled Lia Fáil, the Inauguration Stone, phallic in shape and about five feet tall.  He lovingly approached it, circling in a deiseil fashion, praying to the Spirit of the stone, and asking permission to approach.  “I am a Druid and I praise you, Lia Fáil, stone of many legends, I humbly seek to learn from you,” he intoned.
As he gently reached out to touch it, Steward was overtaken by a scene of the inauguration of Cormac Mac Airt, Ulfhada (long beard), as the Ard Rí (High King).  The year was A.D. 227 [although nobody else there knew it -ed] and he was engulfed in a great gathering of the clans to celebrate the inauguration.  The excitement and feeling that overtook him was palpable.  “What happened?” Steward thought as he questioned his sanity.

People gathered from all over Ireland.  Colorful tents and wooden structures covered the sacred site and hundreds of people were there.  Steward could see Cormac walking around and talking with people.  He was dressed in a brightly colored tunic of red and green with his iron armor shining. He  wore a fine helmet with a raven on top, its wings moving slightly as he moved his head.  The handle on his sword bore a swirling Celtic design with silver and gold intertwined.  The glossy, leather scabbard was also highly adorned.

Photo of Lia Fail & Mound of the Hostages in distance.

Lia Fail & Mound of the Hostages in distance

Cormac stopped to talk with an almost-equally adorned warrior.  As Steward walked up to join the small crowd surrounding them, he realized that he too wore the tunic and armor of a Celtic Warrior and  noticed how heavy it was, feeling like he was carrying a backpack weighing at least 30 pounds.  He overheard Cormac address the other warrior as “Fionn” and he realized quickly that this was Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn mac Cool), leader of the famed Fianna Eireann.  Fionn was surrounded by several of his warriors and they were all dressed in their finery in preparation for the marriage of kingship (Banais Ríghe) of Cormac with Sovereignty of Ireland in the form of a beautiful white mare.

“Fionn mac Cumhaill, son of the great warrior, Cumhaill, the marriage of kingship is upon us and we will celebrate with the Feast of Tara (Feis Temro) to mark this event.  We are glad you and the Fianna Eireann, Protectors of this Isle, have joined us,” said Cormac.

“Greetings, honored Ard Rí,” said Fionn.  “Your marriage and feast will be sumptuous and remembered by the Bards for all ages,” he continued.  Loud cheering followed these words as more and more of the Fianna and others around them took up the chant, “Ard Rí, Ard Rí,” banging their weapons on their shields.  The noise was almost deafening.

As the clamor died down, Steward heard the squealing of pigs in the distance as they were being prepared for the feast.  The delicious aromas of the cooking food were mixed with the pungent smell of wood smoke from the cooking fires.  The smoke contributed to a bit of haze over the Hill but at least it wasn’t raining.  Being twilight, the haze added even more to the ephemeral appearance of the Hill.

The general clamor of people talking, food preparation occurring, and children playing was thundering as Steward strained to hear Cormac and Fionn talk.  Fionn was accompanied by three other warriors who appeared to be members of the Fianna.  I wondered if they were Oisín, Diarmait, and Caílte.  Finally I got close enough to hear Fionn compliment Cormac’s prowess in his most recent battle with the King of Connacht as Cormac sought to bring the recalcitrant men of Connacht under his rule.  In turn, Cormac told Fionn that he could not have done so without the crucial help of the Fianna.

As he stood listening to Cormac and Fionn, Steward noticed a man dressed in a white robe and wearing a gold torc staring at him.  He wore his hair long but it was shaved in the front of his head.  As he looked at Steward with piercing blue eyes, he walked over and asked in a somewhat hushed tone close to Steward’s ear, “Are you Steward of the Wood?”

Steward replied, “Yes,” also in a hushed tone.  The Druid said that he had a message for Steward as he moved away from the crowd and motioned Steward to follow.

They walked to a relatively private spot and he identified himself as Cathaír, the Druid.  He said, “Steward of the Wood, Long Traveler, in my journey to the Other World a few days ago, I received a vision from Ogma that you would be visiting.  He gave me a message for you.  He said that you were a Druid from another time and far away from Eire.  Ogma told me your studies are rewarded with knowledge about the Triad as well as the patterns of energy flow in the earth.  He hears your requests for assistance and he will work with you.”

Cathaír looked at Steward with a questioning glance.  “Do you understand?”

Photo of Lia Fail

Lia Fail (on right)

To which, Steward replied “Clearly.  I have sought the advice of Ogma many times and am honored that he has heard me and seen the sincerity of my actions.”

Cathaír continued, “The Gods and Goddesses have seen and felt your presence at many sacred sites across the earth, on this Isle and beyond.  They know that you have been seeking them and your Ancestors.  The Nature Spirits told them that they feel your welcoming presence in the forests, beckoning them to commune with you.  The spirits of the trees and streams love your gentle touch and they connect with your ancient spirit. Your magickal name fits you well, Steward of the Wood.  Danu, our Earth Mother, loves you and your dedication to her and all her children.  Your Ancestors take pride in your leadership and all your work to learn about them and especially your efforts to share this hard-won knowledge with your living kin.  They feel your love and acknowledgement and are grateful for it.  Through you and their living kin, they continue to live.”

His final message to Steward spoke of hardships.  “Ogma told me to speak to you of a never-ending journey.  Through your past lives, you have gained much wisdom and sometimes painful experiences.  These serve you well now.  At least during this lifetime, you will be a Long-traveler…a Seeker.  You are fated to journey ceaselessly to sacred sites, to visit beings who can teach you and Ogma will be your guide.  It is lonely at times, but your reward is passing on the knowledge that you have gained.  Your greatest joy will be in reviving and sharing the knowledge of the Celts and their Gods and Goddesses and the Nature Spirits.  Of equal joy will be demonstrating the nurturing value of having a personal relationship with the Ancestors.  You are blessed, Steward of the Wood!”

At this, Cathaír clasped Steward’s hand in friendship, gave him the smile of a true brother and knowledge seeker.  Returning from a state of awe and reverence, Steward said, “Honored Cathaír, I don’t know what to say.  This acknowledgement is unexpected and I thank you for this wonderful news.  I am so grateful that you were willing to carry the message to me.”  Without saying another word, Cathaír quickly moved away into the crowd leaving Steward in stunned silence.

As Cathaír moved away, Steward experienced a shift in time back to the twilight presence where he began seemingly hours ago, but actually only a few minutes.  Steward thought, “Did Ogma cause the shift in time?  Had he been the one who drew me to Ireland in the first place?” Steward thought to himself, his mind was racing with questions.  “I have prayed to Ogma many times, seeking his help and guidance.  Even though I had learned to sense a measure of ‘leadings’ from my prayers, I had not felt a strong direct guidance.  How would that change?  Should I journey to the Otherworld in hopes of contacting him directly?  Would Spirits be his intermediaries?   Steward was stunned but exceedingly pleased by everything that just happened.  He wanted to stay in the past.  Steward gratefully raised his voice to Tara, “Oh powerful Ogma and my Ancestors, especially Cormac and Fionn, I thank you for allowing me to learn with you, to see you and begin to understand.  I will never forget the grandeur of what I saw.  Cathaír, I thank the Gods for you and your message.”

Descending the mound of Cormac’s House, he began to walk back across the Hill of Tara to his waiting car.  Visiting Tara was a dream come true.  The Gods and Goddesses, especially Ogma and Danu, the Ancestors, and the Nature Spirits seemed so close.  What an incredible feeling.  What a mystical and magickal site.

Photo of Sheep Grazing at the Hill of Tara

Sheep Grazing at the Hill of Tara

Footnote: Spirituality infuses everything and everyone at Tara if you open up to the experience.  It is truly a place where all Druids should go and commune.  Prepare yourself before the visit to understand better what you are seeing and sensing.  Read about Tara, including the legends of Cormac, Fionn, and others.  Tara is nourishing and reenergizing to the Druid spirit.   
Our spirituality is growing stronger in the world and visiting these sacred sites and reconnecting with our past and present helps its growth.  We as individuals are strengthened as are the Gods and Goddesses, the Ancestors, and the Nature Spirits.  They feel our strength as their influence and power grows.  It is a mutually-beneficial service.  As we grow, then they grow; and in turn, our Druid community grows.

Walk with wisdom.

Two Adorations

By Autumn Rose

Autumn Rose

Autumn Rose


Lady, you were the dream of Earth before the Earth was formed, and you will be the memory of Earth when the Earth no longer exists.  You are the Spirit which indwells the Earth that is.  You are the womb from which all earthly life emerges, and you are the tomb to which the dead of Earth return.  You are the fountain from which we drink, and you are the garden in which we pluck our sustenance.  You are the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, turning like a wheel from birth to birth, ancient beyond memory, yet ever young.  Praise to you, Lady, Goddess, Queen!


Great Sun, you are the Lord of Worlds; the planets with their moons, the asteroids and the comets are your courtiers.  You are the bright star of the daytime heavens.  You are the heat that rescues from cold and death, and you are the light that rescues from darkness and fear.  You are the blaze of revelation and you are the glow of knowledge.  You are the newborn God, and you are the Champion and Hero.  You are the beloved of Earth, the center of her universe, and from you she does not stray.  You are her husband; your embrace brings her to fruitfulness.  As she is the Mother, so you are the Father of earthly life.  Praise to you, Sun God, Lord and King!

Help Wanted!

From the Vice President - Lughnasadh 2011

By GreyBoar

Photo of GreyBoar

Vice President GreyBoar

Imagine this advertisement in your local newspaper under the “Help Wanted” section.


With our new program based on ancient principles we’ll not only teach both men and women how to become advisers or consultants to KINGS and PRESIDENTS and to grow long white beards but to also make BIG CASH!!! Learn how to contact the Old Gods for all your needs as well as being the first in your community to wear a white robe and SOLID GOLD TORQUE!!!


Don’t we all wish that this were true? Except for the part about women growing long white beards, this sounds fantastic! People would beat our doors down to become members.

Yet, there are many opportunities within The Henge of Keltria. First, have you completed the Henge’s correspondence course?  Have you considered starting a study group? Or, if you’ve done that, taking it a step further by forming a Grove?  If you’re already a Grove member are you volunteering within that Grove to assist in training new members or fulfilling some other position?

There are many resources available to members of the Henge to assist you in these endeavors, for example “The Grove Leader’s Handbook” or “The Henge Of Keltria’s Book of Ritual”. What about volunteering to give talks at local Pagan events to better inform people about The Henge of Keltria and Druidism?

I know I’ve kicked this can around before. As individuals, it’s sometimes hard to recognize the opportunities available to us. Religion is a very personal matter and not at all easy to share at times. I’m not a “Druid Evangelical” nor do I expect you to be. Never the less, when the chance does present itself, speak up! At the minimum, it’s very easy to refer someone to WWW.KELTRIA.ORG for more info.

In closing, we will never be able to offer the  “perks” in this silly ad I wrote. It’s up to us as members to help The Henge and Keltrian Druidism grow.

To All a Blessed Lughnasadh!

All Life is Sacred

Photo of Tony Taylor with deer staff

Tony Taylor

From the President

I recently received a question regarding Keltrian beliefs, in particular our stated belief: “We believe that all life is sacred and should neither be harmed nor taken without deliberation or regard.” The questioner wondered if members practice vegetarianism/veganism.

We often receive this question, so this is an opportunity to remind everyone that interpretation of this belief is really up to you.  It identifies the basis for your individual practice and it isn’t something that the Henge dictates as dogma.

Certainly, there are members who choose the vegetarian or vegan path. It is their own decision, which may be strengthened by their interpretation of this belief.  We, as the Henge, respect that interpretation and do our best to include a vegetarian option at gatherings sponsored by the Henge. However, the vast majority of Keltrian Druids are omnivore.

To me, the spirit of this belief reminds us that shooting an animal to eat may be a necessity to provide meat for a family. However, it must be taken with regard for the animal. On the other hand, shooting rabbits for “fun” from the back of a pickup is not honorable.  Likewise, I won’t squash a bug just because it was in the house; rather I  capture it, move it to the outside, and release it.  If there is a chance that I will be stung and go into anaphylactic shock, I may reconsider that plan. The point is that my actions are based upon regard.

The story of a remarkable young lady comes to mind. She was fourteen years old at the time.

We cherish children, however, kids can often get antsy and disrupt the concentration of the adults. This was not the case with this particular youngster. Not only did she contribute to the lesson discussions, she volunteered for ritual parts and did a better job than most of the adults.

Her family depended upon the fall deer kill to stock the freezer with meat for the winter. Her grandfather had already bagged his deer, so he took our little friend hunting to see what luck she would have. The night before the big hunt she called to ask me which goddess she should pray to for a successful hunt. I gave her a suggestion for which she thanked me and we hung up leaving me surprised and pleased that she thought of that detail.

The next evening she called again barely able to contain her excitement. She had indeed shot a doe. She went on to say that when she and her grandfather field dressed the deer, she insisted that the heart be buried where it fell. Grandfather grumbled because that was his favorite part, but he did as she asked. She offered a prayer of thanks to the deer’s spirit and the Goddess who guided her hand. She did this on her own with no adult prompting.

It’s our custom in the Grove to draw names for the Yule gift exchange. To my surprise and pleasure, she had my name and created a beautiful staff with one of the deer’s hooves on the top. Not only was the meat going to feed the family, but no part of that creature of nature went to waste.

This belief is really all about paying attention to what you are doing and not taking a life without thinking about it.

Walk with wisdom,
/|\ Tony