OAK WISE

Poetry Exploring an Ecological Faith

L. M. Browning

OAK WISE
Poetry Exploring an Ecological Faith

OAK WISE
Poetry Exploring an Ecological Faith

L. M. BROWNING

FIRST EDITION

Little Red Tree Publishing, LLC, 635 Ocean Avenue, New London, CT 06320

Copyright © 2010 L. M. Browning
All rights are reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Except for brief passages quoted in a newspaper, magazine, radio or television review, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. First Edition, 2010, manufactured in USA 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 LS 20 19 18 17 16 15 13 12 11 Cover and Book Design: Michael John Linnard, MCSD The following photographs are attributed and used by kind permission: Cover Photograph: “Fallen” by: Steven Schnoor © Copyright Steven Schnoor Interior Photographs/illustration: Page xii - "Liberty Oak," by unknown, In the public domain. Page xiv - "The druid Grove," taken from Old England: A Pictorial Museum, by Charles Knight (1845). In the public domain. Page xvi - "Oberfallenberg_11," by Friedrich Bhringer. In the public domain. Page xxxii - "The Ancient Oak." by Jerry Fryman, In the public domain. Page 13 - "Yew Tree," by Stanley Walker, In the public domain. Page 23 - "An Encroaching Fog," by Duncan George. In the Public Domain. Page 43 - "Mist early in the morning," by Nevit Dilmen. In the Public Domain. Page 59 - "Doubtful Sound," by Duncan George. Page 68 - "Standing Stones," by Duncan George. Page 79 - "Toward the Fields of Zenor," by Duncan George. Page 103 - "The Raging Atlantic," by Duncan George.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Browning, L. M. Oak wise : poetry exploring an ecological faith / L.M. Browning. -- 1st ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references, glossary and index. ISBN 978-1-935656-01-2 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Druids and druidism--Poetry. 2. Nature--Religious aspects--Poetry. I. Title. PS3602.R738O15 2010 811'.6--dc22

2010013858

Little Red Tree Publishing, LLC 635 Ocean Avenue, New London, CT 06320 website: www.littleredtree.com

DEDICATION

Dedicated to those who seek the Other Shore. Keep a weather eye and hold steady to thy heart. Let neither doubt or desolation deter you from believing.

CONTENTS
Foreword by Michael Linnard Preface Introduction by L. M. Browning Disavowed ~ the Pagan I. — The Heretical Truth II. — Sheltering the Outcast III. — One Who is Greater Gaea’s Soul I. — The Primordial Soul II. — The Source of Life Evergreen I. — The Unforeseen Death II. — The Warmth of Hope III. — The Distraught Orphans IV. — The Comforting Assurance Arboreal Spirits I. — Pilgrimage to the Silent Sages II. — The Life of Trees III. — Seeking the Wisdom of the Elders Living IV. — The Secret Keepers V. — The Cradle of the Forest Living Memory I. — The Witness to All Acts II. — Transfusion III. — Through the Umbilical IV. — Memory Lost Sacrosanct I. — Reconciliation II. — Holy Ground Walking Between Worlds ~ A Shaman's Story I. — The Connection II. — The Years of Idealism III. — Daemons IV. — Shamanic Dismemberment V. — An Old Soul in a Modern World xi xiii xvii 3 3 3 4 6 6 6 8 8 9 10 11 15 15 16 17 18 19 25 25 29 32 35 37 37 38 45 45 48 50 52 56

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The Duties of the Bard I. — Ink and Pen ~ Blood and Breath II. — The Memory of the Village III. — The Historian's Task IV. — The Invocation The Pilgrimage Inward Full Circle Anam Cara I. — Binary II. — My One Essential III. — Assembling the Pieces The Journey Home I. — To Call for the Boat II. — The Long Awaited Arrival III. — The Needed Guide IV. — The Journey's End - Life's Beginning Returning From the Wasteland I. — Ailing II. — Damage Done III. — Recovery The Homeland I. — To Resume a Past Life II. — After the Long Journey The Voyage Back I. — Unable to Let Go II. — Risk Taken III. — To Invoke Remembrance IV. — The Final Plea Grassroots I. — The Face of Faith II. — Where Belief is Found III. — Going Back to go Forward Glossary of Words and Terms Bibliography Further reading/Further resources Index of Titles and First Lines Biography of Author

61 61 61 63 65 67 71 72 72 75 76 81 81 81 82 83 84 85 85 86 91 91 92 96 96 96 98 100 107 107 107 110 113 121 122 123 124

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FOREWORD
It gives me great pleasure to publish this book of poetry from a young poet, L. M. Browning, who writes with great passion, conviction and integrity about a transformative process, which has cast her back to an ancient set of animistic beliefs and faiths immanent in the concreteness of the earth itself. Her new found spirituality is located and centered in the physicality of the world that we as humans, and all other creatures and organic elements, have inhabited for millennia. It is a book of personal expression: an exploration of the spiritual world of shamanism and Druidism in poetic form, which is both intense and contemplative. In each poem the author reveals an accumulative and meticulous examination of a faith and belief in the earth and everything in it as a sacred place, which has a reciprocative consciousness and soul. She furthermore asserts that we all are an integral element in a divine balance that is delicate and precarious, which requires knowledge and respect of the earth. It is a book of individual spirituality in a contextual physical world with its inherent connection to all that has lived and shared the earth. In that sense, the oak tree, as a pivotal sagacious symbol and connectivity to the past, is a central organic presence, which acts as a conduit to other sacred places. Many poems explore and express a wide range of feelings and emotions at length and are divided into sub-headings that form a pathway for the reader to fully appreciate the significance of each element. You will also find a remarkable depth of insight into the modern world and the human condition. Throughout her poetry there exists an implicit celebration of the discovery of a profound spiritual identity, through an ancient belief and faith. Essentially she reaches back to liberate and, at the same time, enable herself to forge ahead with copasetic resolution and confidence. It is a book of poetry to which you will often find yourself returning and each time with renewed enjoyment and reward. Michael Linnard, CEO Little Red tree Publishing, New London, CT 2010
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This wonderful oak tree, called the "Treaty Oak," is located in Jessie Ball Dupont Park, Jacksonville, Florida, USA is over 250 years old. It is more than 70 feet tall, and the circumference of the trunk is 25 feet. Its lower limbers obviously near or resting on the ground are almost the size of the trunk. (Photograph in the public domain)

PREFACE
Oak Wise―Poetry Exploring an Ecological Faith, is the first book in a series of contemplative titles I will be releasing over the course of 2010-2011 through Little Red Tree Publishing. The series as a whole explores the many sides of the human condition: our need for deeper meaning, our search for the sacred, disillusionment with formal religion, the betrayal of and restoration of our identity, both as individuals as well as human beings. Other themes I will visit in later titles include: the harsh awakening that occurs when we leave behind adolescence to enter the reality of the world man has built and the subsequent transcending of the struggle, poverty, emptiness and despair we face as adults. And finally an evaluation of the internal structure of the world mankind has built―our interactions with one another on a personal, professional and social level. The next title to be released in this series will be, Ruminations at Twilight―Poetry Exploring the Sacred, in August 2010. This book is the companion to Oak Wise. While Oak Wise delves into humanity’s maternal bond with the Earth and internal connection to the sacred, Ruminations at Twilight, explores humanity’s relationship with the paternal figure―the masculine presence of the divine, that is the father figure of mankind―as well as the nature of the sacred. Asking and answering the question: Is the sacred Otherworldly or is it found in the ordinary things that surround us each day? The poems within, Ruminations at Twilight, follow the story of a prodigal child attempting to restore their purer self and to reconcile with the Divine Father and the Mother Earth who were left scarred and betrayed by the child’s actions. In this book the reader bears witness to the private discourse of one who, pulled by an attraction to detrimental ambitions and wearied by a life of hardship, betrayed their identity and compromised their morality; in time, ultimately awakening to find themselves in need of forgiveness. Collectively these titles directly confront many of those "meaning of life" issues that we each grapple with internally and provide new insights into age-old questions. The series

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represents the desire to discard all truths taught to us secondhand and to personally explore an empirical knowledge of the Divine, the World and the self.

Oak Wise is a direct translation of the word Druid. In Druidry the Oak is revered as one of the Sacred trees. It is also viewed as a doorway into the Otherworld or conduit through which to gain the wisdom that the Earth holds. As one of the oldest living organisms on Earth, it cannot be disputed that the rings of a single Oak can mark millenniums of humanity’s history. If these silent historians are indeed conscious as the Druids would believe, they would hold a collective knowledge of natural history more comprehensive than all annuals of mankind. Next time you come upon an Oak, reach out and touch it and try to connect with the history it has witnessed. (Illustration titled: "The Druid Gove," taken from, Old England: A Pictorial Museum by Charles Knight (1845). In the public domain).

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Firstly I would like to acknowledge the contribution of my mother, Marianne, who has been both a trusted editor and sounding board throughout the creation of all my books. My deepest thanks to Rennie McQuilkin, for being a friend and mentor. As well as to Frank Owen and Jason Kirkey for their support and warm welcome into the Celtic / Spiritual circle. I would like to acknowledge the talented photographers I collaborated with: Duncan George and Steven Schnoor, and thank them for the generous use of their art, which helped to enrich the book even further. And finally, I would like to thank Michael Linnard and all those at Little Red Tree Publishing; working with an editor has never been such a joy. I knew from our very first meeting that I was putting my book in safe, capable hands.

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This is a magical photograph, taken from the Austrian town of Oberfallenberg, looking through the trees out over a sea of mist lying in the valley with the mountains of Switzerland in the distance. (Photograph taken by: Friedrich Böhringer, titled: "Oberfallenberg_11." In the public domain.)

INTRODUCTION
Ancient Ways in a Modern World ― An Introduction by the Author I came into the Earth-based faith I hold now, years after exploring many other world religions. Raised a Catholic, I studied both the Traditional and Apocrypha doctrine, reading both the “accepted texts” as well as the excluded Gospels and the fifty-two spiritual books that comprise the Nag Hammadi library. Eventually however, my spiritual search crossed the boundaries from Catholicism into the other religions, compelling me to investigate: Judaism, Tibetan Buddhism, Druidry and Shamanism. Then, in 2004, following several years of life-altering events, I made one of the defining choices of my life: to move away from world religion as a whole; taking with me what few truths I felt to be absolute as I followed my heart in search of a more intimate spirituality. The defining choice I made to break from formal religion had not been made arbitrarily, four years before I made this pivotal decision I had entered a period of indepth reflection. The circumstances of my life had aligned in such a way that I found myself living in relative solitude. What started off as a forced withdraw from society due to illness and family crisis, soon became a period of contemplation wherein I began to reexamine the virtue and validity of my long-held beliefs. This period of redefinition lasted for over eight years. Setting aside everything else in my life, during this time I attempted to rid myself of all preconceived notions concerning the world, the Divine and myself, and closely examine everything I had been taught secondhand, in a desire to ensure that the foundation of assumed facts upon which I built my life and my faith was indeed sound. Over the course of these years of contemplation I had slowly begun to progress away from formal religion and, one layer at a time, I had established what it is I personally believe in, gathering a unique faith composed of the truths that resounded in my heart and in my life. For many years I thought

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the faith I had come to during this time was purely my own; until one afternoon, while browsing in the library, my hand was led to two books on Celtic Shamanism and I found my personal faith put down before me. The two works that woke me to the ancient roots of my faith were: The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom by: John and Caitlin Matthews and The MistFilled Path by: Frank MacEowen. It was during the days and weeks I spent reading these books that I came to realize that the beliefs I had spent years establishing and defining were in fact quite old. While I thought I was progressing forward, what I was truly doing was reconnecting with the past. I had followed my heart away from the dogma of formal religion, so to be true to what I believed, and found that I had naturally come to the faith held by many of those to come before us. …I had listened to the guide within and was led unto the ways that had been lost. For myself, Oak Wise encapsulates that time of discovery; the book is not strictly on Shamanism, rather it is a convergence of my own beliefs and the Celtic traditions of which I have learned. Despite choosing to leave behind organized religion, Shamanism remains dear to my heart and, if I ever consented to give myself a label to help others understand what I believe and what my spiritual path has been, the label would be that of a Shaman. Present-Day Descendants of the Old Wisdom The natural, gradual transition I made from formal religion, to spirituality, to the old ways of the Earth-based faiths, is a change I believe many people are experiencing at this current time. Whether due to the politics of religion or a personal discontentment, there seems to be many who are questioning long-held doctrines, in an effort to find a faith that makes more sense in this progressing world. It has been during this search for a new belief that many of us have adopted perspectives found within the ancient faiths, we are simply unaware of the history of what it is we are beginning to believe. For example, The Green Movement that has begun to gain popularity in recent years, which holds the Earth to be sacred and asserts our responsibility to her, is not a new

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concept, rather it is the reemergence of the very old principles found at the center of the Druidic and Shamanic tradition. The Ecological Faith was quite possibly the first “religion.” Archeological evidence estimates that Shamanic beliefs date back some 30,000 or more years—well before any prophets emerged from the wilderness, and was practiced by nearly all peoples throughout the then unconnected world. Each village, though isolated from the other, came to their own version of the Earth-based faith. I would attempt to name the regions of the world that hold a Shamanic history but I would quite literally be composing a list of every continent. The old ways of finding the Divine in and amongst the green of nature are the grassroots of humanity’s faith in a greater power. These old ways were the ways of a simpler people but all the same, a wiser people. While it may seem that Shamanic traditions have been lost with time as people, whether by choice or forcedconversion, immigrated from the old faith into the new religions that have been established within the last few millenniums; nevertheless, there are two defining aspects of Shamanism that have managed to survive. The two defining aspects being: that of an ecological awareness and that of a direct communion with the Sacred/the ancestors. Shamanism endures on in the present-day world going unrecognized for what it is. The “Green” philosophy, Conservationism, Naturalism, Deep Ecology, all these are descendants of Shamanic worldviews. Likewise, even within the “modern religions” that had come to dominate, there still exist sects that follow Mysticism, which in essence carry on the Shamanic tradition of union with the Divine, speaking of the Shamanic inclinations we as a species seem to possess to seek out what lies behind the veil and commune directly. Within the traditions of Christian and Catholicism there are Mystics who wanted to experience the Divine and pay respect to it with Love, rather than worship it from afar. Most famous among these being St. John of the Cross, who took us by the hand and led us through “The Dark Night of the Soul.” Mysticism is also present in Judaism in the form of the Kabbalah wisdom and is likewise alive within the Sufi of Islam

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and the path of the Dervish. Among the many notable figures in Sufism, the most beloved by many must be the prophetic poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, whose verse cannot be given high enough praise. Incidentally, both these two men I have listed were writers, this is not coincidence. If one were to review a list of notable Mystics throughout history, shared traits would begin to emerge, one such trait being that of a propensity towards writing (usually verse) and another being their “outsider status” within their communities. Mystics in the past and even today to some extent, usually dwelt as outcasts sometimes by choice, other times by force residing on the fringes of rigid religious societies who frowned upon those who would dare proclaim the Divine to be knowable on an intimate level through the connecting souls. It should also be noted that Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism, while not having as defined sects of Mysticism as the religions aforementioned, do hold deeply-rooted Shamanic wisdom running throughout their tradition. Contained within these Mystic branches, the Old Shamanic wisdom lives on; for Mysticism, at its heart, is the way of the Shaman encouraging one to gain an understanding of the Divine/Unseen through firsthand communion rather than through solely studying second-hand accounts such as those found in the sacred texts. What is Shamanism? There is a modern day ignorance and misconception when it comes to what a Shaman is. A Shaman is one who experiences his/her spirituality. The Shaman does not necessarily follow or study a doctrine or formally worship a deity, rather they live their spirituality. In most instances, the iconic image of the Native American medicine man comes to mind for many when they think of the word Shaman. However, as we already established, throughout human history some form of the tradition has been present in nearly every region of the world, from the Native America peoples, to the tribes of Africa, to the peoples of Mongolia and Islands of Japan. In this respect, Shamanism is one of the few faiths that has the ability to unite all people;

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for its beginnings are not localized to one country or race. Instead, it is a faith that each culture came to at some point in their history. It is a faith that allows each people to establish their own traditions; while at the same time sharing the same fundamental beliefs. No one need convert to a foreign religion in order to embrace this faith, all one need do is rediscover their own past. Depending upon the region, specific rituals and practices vary; nonetheless, there are certain concepts and elements that are present among all. Below you will find a very brief overview of these core beliefs. In my experience they are: • The belief that the Earth is sacred. • The belief that through the Earth/nature humanity is able to commune with the Divine. • The belief that the Earth herself has a soul. • The belief that the Earth is conscious, aware and holds within her the memory of all that has taken place upon her. • The belief that, in each moment there are things taking place on many “planes” and that we must attune ourselves to not only be aware of what is taking place in our life in the seen , but also to what is taking place within the Earth and in the Otherworld or the unseen. Achieving a “simultaneous awareness,” (as I have come to term it), of what is taking place within, around and beyond, brings about a more complete understanding of our existence. • The belief that there is a balance to our life, to the Earth and to all living things, which must be respected; for it cannot be disturbed without dire consequences. • The belief in a Great Spirit (a Greater Power). Some Earth-based faiths are monotheistic, some are polytheistic;

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while others simply believe in a Greater Force that does not necessarily take a physical form. Most Earth-based faiths do not require their followers to adhere to a specific doctrine when it comes to this matter, each individual is allowed to have their own opinion of what the Greater Power is and have that opinion respected/accepted by the rest of the community. • The belief that there are both good and evil forces/spirits within us and around us. The existence of both light and shadow, which play significant roles in what is occurring within our lives and throughout the world. • The belief that illness is caused by struggles taking place within an individual on an existential/emotional/mental level, rather than the notion that illness caused by any physical abnormalities, germ or bacterial infections. In Shamanic traditions it is believed that illness of the body can be a physical reflection/manifestation of innerturmoil and conflict taking place within the individual. Or, in some instances, the source of the illness may also be caused by Soul Loss, wherein part of the individual’s soul has been broken away from the whole following a significant life trauma and now need be retrieved and reintegrated. • The belief that the soul/spirit survives death and goes unto an afterlife/Otherworld. Some believe this Otherworld exists upon another plane of existence; while still others believe this place exists somewhere upon the Earth herself, in the form of a hidden sanctuary that lies in an in-between. • The belief that those who are dead still have the power to effect what is occurring in our lives and communicate with us from the place where they live on. In the Shamanic traditions those who have passed from this world still have the ability to act from afar as guides and teachers. One of the central roles of the Shaman is to act as a conduit between the village and those who have “moved on.” • The belief that animals are the equal of mankind and have wisdom to teach us. The belief that animals can be guides and

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communicators/mediators for those trying to reach us from the Otherworld/unseen. The idea of spirit guides, in the form of an animal, is quite abundant in the different regional traditions. The way in which our individual “Animal Guide” is revealed differs; however the basic premise specifies that such an animal would be a species that has followed the individual throughout their life, reoccurring/appearing in various forms to communicate an underlying truth. The animal being one through which the individual has been able to feel a deeper connection to the Otherworld, the Great Force or to themselves. • The belief that memory and wisdom have been preserved over the course of history and live on eternal within many forms/vessels: in the Earth herself and all that takes root upon her, as well as in the collective memory of those who came before us, who survive on a different plane. In the Shamanic tradition this gathered wisdom can be partaken of through various means. It can be passed on to us from our ancestors who, despite their distance are able to commune with us. Or this wisdom may also be realized through communion with the Natural World (the Earth). The landscape has an inherent reflective quality about it, encouraging one to turn within, meditate and listen both to their heart and to the inaudible language of the Earth through which we learn truth of Self and world. It is firmly believed that wisdom and truth, (both forgotten and yet to be realized) exist and are readily available to those who are willing to reach out and listen from within. • The belief that the Shamans can connect to and travel into the Otherworld through dreams/visions or trances induced by drumming, music, dancing, fasting, vision quests and other rituals. It is believed that the Shaman can receive the wisdom of the ancestors and pass it on to the village. Thus the Shaman acts as a bridge between worlds (between the village and the Otherworld). The role of the Shaman is as: healer, sage, visionary, interpreter and guide.

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Present Day Role of the Shaman My personal beliefs concerning the modern role of the Shaman stress the position of the Shaman as a healer to those in the village. Not necessarily a healer in the sense of one administering homeopathic remedies, which usually only serve to treat the symptoms being manifested in the body following the rising of the conflict within the Being (soul). Rather, I view the role of the Shaman (of one whose connection is strong with the unseen) as a companion to those who are suffering through inner-conflict or emotional trauma. The proper answer to relieve such inner-conflict is not always readily had. The Shaman is able to gather insights from the in-between; nonetheless the answers to help those who are suffering are not always known. Regardless of this, it is my firm belief that, whether or not the Shaman has the answer needed to cure/resolve the inner-conflict, it is the Shaman’s role to act as a steadfast companion, stating to the one who is suffering that: “Whether I have the truth you are in need of or not, you will not bear your pain alone.” In this act of binding themselves to the one in pain the Shaman fortifies the one who is ailing as well as brings their unique insight into the, often jumbled, situation. In my experience, many times, all that one who is suffering need know to be refortified is that their pain is understood by another and that they shall face nothing alone. Becoming a Shaman There is the “religion” that is Shamanism―the beliefs that compose this Earth-based faith and then there is the path to becoming a Shaman. To convert this process into the context of other world religions, believing in Shamanism and being a Shaman is likened to that of being a Buddhist or a Catholic, and then choosing to undertake the process of becoming a monk or nun. The only difference being that, in Buddhism or Catholicism one chooses to become a monk or nun; while in Shamanism the one becoming a Shaman has been chosen. To define what a Shaman is can be difficult; many Shamans do not even fully understand what they are. We all know what a poet is, what a doctor, counselor,

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mediator, historian, priest and teacher are, merge all these and base them in a deep spirituality and you can begin to appreciate the role of a Shaman. A Shaman is known as a “walker between worlds” because they will spend their entire life dwelling in-between the Spirit World/Otherworld and this world (between the seen and unseen). A Shaman has a prominent connection to those who dwell in the Otherworld or the “unseen” and through this connection the insights of the ancestors can be passed. All beings, human or animal, possess such a connection through which they are able to receive guidance from those who are elsewhere, this connection being an integral part of the heart/ soul. Nevertheless, the Shaman’s connection is different; for in the instance of the Shaman, the connection to the Otherworld is more than a facet of their heart/soul, it is their vocation (their purpose in the village) and more importantly it is their identity. In previous ages, a potential Shaman could be identified by the present Shaman in the village, certain traits unique to “the way” usually emerged during childhood. At which time that child would be apprenticed to the current Shaman and would learn over the coming years how to develop/nurture their gift. Signs indicating a potential Shaman manifested themselves differently, depending upon the individual; nonetheless there were commonalities. Potential shamans are individuals who have been selected by the ancestors to act as a mediator between the new generation and the old who have moved on (between the seen and the unseen…between the people and the Greater Spirit). A person who will walk the path of the Shaman will usually display certain traits such as: a keen sense of spiritual awareness, the ability to see the apparitions of ghosts/spirits or will generally exhibit wisdom beyond their years. There may also be auspicious signs surrounding the child’s birth that will point to their future spiritual vocation. At some point within the life of the potential Shaman there is usually a bout with serious, even life threatening illness, either physical of psychological. It is at this point, when the individual is brought to the edge of their life, that he or she experiences what is termed Shamanic Dismemberment

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or the Shaman’s Death. It is during this process that the potential shaman is “dismembered,” stripped down to their core belief/identity, and upon the brink, overcomes any/all confusion, inhibitions, distractions and doubts that might have held them back from fully becoming who they are. For some this defining, transformative period is coupled with the experience known as, “Soul Flight” or visions in the form of dreams, wherein the potential Shaman is able to glimpse the future path intended for him or her. At its core the process of Shamanic Dismemberment is an initiatory period wherein some part of the person being initiated dies so that he or she can full emerge. I view this part that “dies” as the other life that the Shaman would have led, if he or she had not been chosen. It is in the partial death that the Shaman is born, as the ties, which hold the Shaman solely in one world are cut, so that he or she can dwell in the in-between. Those who walk the path regard being a Shaman as both gift and curse, being that it is at times a hard, lonely existence; nonetheless the role of the Shaman was vital to the village, just as it is to this day. The role of the Shaman has not changed, the village has simply grown. Now, instead of journeying into the in-between to gather insight for the few families who compose the village, the Shaman ventures into the in-between, gathers the insights and brings them unto the “Global Village.” Shamanism’s Modern Importance One of the central themes of Oak Wise is that of “Going Back to Go Forward.” Many times when I discuss this concept with others they think that I am advocating that we abandon all modern pursuits and go back to the “horse and buggy lifestyle.” While I would indeed do this myself if I had the means to purchase my own lands and be self-sustaining, I am fully aware that there is no undoing what has been done. Barring any disaster that would forcibly revert us to a third world way of life, humanity will not be abandoning technology any time soon. What I advocate humanity attempt to achieve, is a balance between technological advancement and Ecological awareness.

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As our technology has advanced we have progressively allowed ourselves to be brought away from the Natural World, until now when we primarily reside within the Synthetic space we have created. Disconnected from the Natural World, we hold little appreciation for its value and are therefore willing to harm it or through our indifference allow harm to come to it. Mankind must attempt to strike a balance between living within the Technological Community and the Natural World, instead of solely residing within the synthetic world of media and cyberspace. Shamanic, Druidic and the other Earth-based faiths are founded upon principles that could greatly aid us in striking such a balance. Returning to our Shamanic roots/adopting a more Shamanic philosophy would help is in cultivating a more balanced way of life. Raising our awareness of what the Earth is beneath her skin of grass and mineral muscles at its core as well as what it gives to those who dwell upon it. Cloistered away from the Earth as we gaze into the screens of our television, computer and cellphone our perspective is so narrowed we are blind to what is occurring around us—blind to the natural beauty of the world, blind to what is occurring on the “deeper levels.” A blindness that leaves us starved for meaning; for it is within these “deeper levels” and from the Earth herself, that a sense of meaning is drawn to fill our lives. We have become a society of discarders rather than gatherers. We allow each new invention to replace an old skill. We are always reaching for the new, viewing the present as a period of waiting for the “next best thing” and the ways of the past as no longer relevant. And, in arbitrarily leaving the old wisdom behind, we have discarded knowledge that could greatly add to the virtue of our endeavors and the integrity of our society. The past is replaced with each new invention yet the ecological beliefs founded by our ancestors are ideals that could significantly aid us in taking responsibility for the transgressions we have committed against the Earth in our indifference. Awakening to an Ecological faith would give humanity the sensitivity needed to progress civilization in

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such a way that we are able to integrate our modern world into the Natural World rather than laying our modern world over top the Natural World in a suffocating, destructive manner. At no other point in human history has it been more important for humanity to realize that the Earth is sacred. Few realizations would have more impact on our daily lives and on the lives of the generations to follow than that of realizing we dwell on a Divine plane. Stewards of the Earth, not lords—this is not a new concept. At present we are all witnessing the Earth going through changes. Some still debate whether the changes taking place in the climate and weather are due to global warming or are a natural turn of events; however the fact that the overall health of this Earth wanes, cannot be debated. I believe that the time in which we have to realize the sacredness of the Earth is waning as well, not in that the survival of the Earth is in danger, she will live on and undergo all she needs to in order to heal herself and regain her balance. Rather, it is vital for us to take back up our stewardship and right the wrongs we have made because it is the survival of humanity that will be in jeopardy if we continue to live as we do indifferent to our impact and convinced of our own immortality. The earlier we rise—the sooner we wake—the more we shall be able to accomplish. We all have various endeavors that we busy ourselves with each day: matters of business, matters of politics, matters of religion as well as the maintaining of our home and the security of our family, yet all these paths are converging, creating one focus one task, that humanity must now undertake. And that is the restoration of this Earth and the overhaul of the modern world so that some degree of harmony can be had between mankind and the Earth. I will part now with a question: If we were in charge of preserving paradise—of preserving Heaven—how long would its sanctuary last? We have the power to destroy and the power to protect. We justify our destruction, saying that we shall build something better atop that which we have leveled. Yet, of all the species upon this plane, humans have the most distorted sense of value. We have erected our synthetic world and immigrated into it,

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no longer wanting to inhabit the Natural World. We regard the Earth in terms of monetary value alone yet she holds the same inestimable value of the rarest religious relics. As we invent and build we find the Earth to be beneath us in intelligence… we feel there is nothing else to learn from her and that she is good now, only for raw materials. We no longer regard her as a teacher or guide or provider yet if we were to make pilgrimage unto an untouched place and go into the silence, there we would hear the sermon of our sagely, biological mother, who has the ability to turn us inward and help us find who we are as well as what we need to fill this empty life in which we struggle. What information can be found within the quiet of a rolling plain? The calm that the roar of the modern machines drown out. The truth that lies within us, which the fast-paced life prevents us from noticing. The truth that is written in the sky, which the neon lights obscure. In observing nature we find naked truth. In communing with nature we find a healing serenity. In encouraging and protecting growth we find a fulfilling purpose. In rekindling the fire of the old ways we shall dispel the darkness of this present age. Only nature can fill that void within us that stings and gnaws at us; for it was created when we stopped living on this Earth and shut ourselves away within the cold isolating tower of technology. L. M. Browning Connecticut, Autumn 2009
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This is an ancient oak tree growing on Fowlet Farm, Hollybush, Nr. Bedstone, Shropshire, UK. This tree is actually on the site of an old settlement and probably revered. Even today it is treated with particular reverence as it is frequently decorated with many votive offerings. (Photograph taken by: Jerry Fryman, titled: "The Ancient Oak." In the public domain.)

OAK WISE POEMS

Oak Wise

DISAVOWED ~ THE PAGAN I. The Heretical Truth
I fled my disillusionment naked. While all others were clothed still in the cloth of brotherhood bestowed upon them by their chosen faith, I became a monk without the sepia robes …a nun without the raven gowns. Thin-skinned and without sanctuary, I would have become victim to the harshness around me if it were not for you. You who wove together the swatches of the cream and beige birch bark and spun on the loom the long strands of grasses that grow along the banks of the river so to give me back my robes. You who strung together the wooly leaves of wild sage, interlaced with flowering lavender and set it atop my head, that I might be blessed. You who took luminous strands of thread and quilted the dark blanket of the night sky with celestial patterns that we all might be comforted in the darkness and have a copy of the map that might lead us home imprinted and scrolled out above us.

II. Sheltering the Outcast

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They spat the word pagan at me and hurdled heretic threateningly after it. Have I become the heathen? I came home to the woods, looked upon the Earth with new eyes and saw the face of a goddess, then later, found my god to be a mortal who came to understand the forces that move her. I left the monastery. I returned to the places faith began ―into the wild― where you found me. No church to worship in, you hath lent me your private chapel in which to pray. No monastery in which I might reside, you hath opened to me your hidden chamber, that I might have a place to lie my head. No religion from which to draw meaning you took my hand and led me through the forest at twilight ―away from the din and into the calm― to show unto me all that you have faith in. No holy site to make pilgrimage unto you hath given me your robe and staff and let me follow in your wake.

III. One Who is Greater
And it was upon that first night, when we took our rest in the glen and I saw you pull back into yourself ―into prayer― reaching to another as we reach unto you, that all I knew of faith changed.

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We pray to you… So, to whom would you pray? Do you, like all, feel that human need to reach to someone greater than yourself? …I did not know there was another who was greater. Looking up from your evening prayers you turned unto me and kindly explained that there is you― the one who hath learned the most called God, though you are an evolved mortal, but then, there is another force beyond you. …There is you, and then there is what gives you your ability. We have mistaken the man as the source; for, in our own hunger for power, that is how we would wish it to be. Yet your power flows, not from some internal omnipotence but rather stems from epiphanies you have concerning the force beyond, yet within, and how it lives, moves and grows.

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GAEA’S SOUL I. The Primordial Soul
Radiating out from the core of the Earth is a life-bringing force. The soil is but her body― dead without the verdant blood circulating through her. There is the mineral enriched core of molten magma spinning at her center but deeper still lies another chamber wherein a luminous soul is kept, revolving eternal. The energy of which penetrates the many different layers of sediment bound around it, reaching all the way to the topsoil where it bursts forth as living green. From deep below the spirit of life emanates up to the surface and spreads―covering the world, making it flourish turning the barren to the blooming, bringing the grass from the ground, the bud to the stem and the sapling from its seed.

II. The Source of Life
Everywhere man does not hold it back life comes forward. And even in the patches we seek to suppress and tame or entomb beneath asphalt and concrete

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life, in its relentlessness, still pushes through. Beholding the out of place flower, stray tuft of grass or the persistent, prickly weed pushing its way up between the stones we lay or the tar we pour, we see an example of that irrepressible spirit of life radiating out from the center of this Earth― driven to bask in the warm light of the sun it has yearned for― refusing to be held back. …we seek an example of the real world that struggles to live on beneath the synthetic one we erect. The origin of the green is the resplendent golden sphere within― the aura which her soul emanates, being that life-bringing force. The vines of the ivy wind their way from her innermost garden towards the surface, where they unfurl their leaves and drink in the light. Vivifying our dull plain. Generating the fruits that sustain all other forms. Transforming the void into the Eden.

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EVERGREEN

I. the Unforeseen Death

Oh, what an abandonment the first winter was, as life withered, without expectation of return. How spited the first peoples felt when the warmth of their day was stolen and the abrasive wind drove them from the merriment into starvation. How disconcerting to watch the entire world die ―every plant wilt and every tree turn bare― without explanation or apparent cause. We had not yet established a trust with you, had we mother. We were the newcomers to your plains and knew not your cycles and moods. We knew not of the ballet that you and your partner the sun eternally enact. We knew not that, for a time each year, you pull all life inward ―leaving the surface barren― in a season called winter. We did not realize that winter, in its extreme, is natural and needed …a restorative sleep, wherein every organism rests after the season of growth so to prepare for the next. From our eyes all we could see was death; we did not know that the life we saw vanish was merely hibernating within you.

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II. The warmth of Hope
What a renewal of thy love the first spring was. After the winter left all distraught… after the desolation and famine, the budding of the trees was such an affirmation of thy care ―an answer to the prayers that had carried on throughout the bleak days of short daylight and long darkness …of fleeting warm and deep cold. …of persistent hunger and bare orchards. We feared that you had died― oh needed mother. As you closed your eyes to sleep ―as you exhaled and the trees dropped their leaves― we feared you dead. Wailing in hunger without the nourishing bosom of your land’s bounty, frozen without the shelter of your warming presence, we mourned you and prepared for our own end but then you came back. Your lifeless body took a breath and the buds emerged from the tips of the withered trees. Blood coursed through your pale body and the yellow grass surged with green. Your still hands stirred and a warm wind blew in from the south. Your eyes flickered opened and the song of the returning sparrows heralded your reawakening.

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III. The Distraught Orphans
During that first scare― before we knew what was happening, we felt scorned. As the warm winds of our Arcadia turned hostile we felt as if we had been abandoned by our mother turned from the house before we were ready out into a harsh reality, for which we were unprepared. The world had come to its end; the days had grown darker, nature had shed its colors like a stiffening corpse, the flow of fruits trickled and then finally the coldness came. And as the warming glow of your presence dimmed we came to learn of those demons darkness, cold and hunger, which you and your symbiot the sun had kept at bay. Swept off the hillsides we huddled, bewildered around the dim, seemingly forlorn hope that you would rise up and life could return to what it once was. Walking through the gray, bare wood we attended your wake to see your plaid body set out before us. You were gone and we knew not what to do. Until…

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amongst the cemetery of dead trees, we saw a gathering of survivors ―a grove of Yew still in bloom. Taking them as a sign that you still endured, we had reason to hope that your warmth would one day return. You had brought forth this family of tree that blooms when all others wither to be a symbol of your continued presence and care… As if, before your laid down to take your rest, you left behind a note for us― assuring us that, while you may seem lifeless, you are not …that while you may seem dead, you are not …that while it may seem you abandoned us, you never will.

IV. The Comforting Assurance
During your season of slumber we are left to fend for ourselves. Yet you do not simply abandon us; you give us fire to ward off the demon frost and the wisdom of preservation, so to have a portion of your harvest to keep us hearty until your return. When the cold winds start cresting the hills and creeping along the grounds of our village, we place in the grate the fat oak Yule log and kindle the fire to push back the threat. We stoke the fire that brings warmth and light, keeping the hearth with vigilance,

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as if it were a candle in the window showing our remembrance of you during the season of your respite. And on those coldest days ―months into the season of darkness― when we begin to fear that spring shall not return, we go unto that evergreen grove. As if opening the door of the room you sleep in to insure that you are alright, we touch the prickly needles to check that they still cling steadfast to the bough; then peel back a single scale of the bark along the trunk so to see that reassuring glint of pale green beneath and know that you are still there, soon to return to us and bring with you the return of ease. Then, before we leave, we take with us cuttings from the immortally green with which we adorn our home in the time of dark, so to keep in sight the promise of your return.

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This Yew Tree, growing within the churchyard of The Church of St. Mary and St. Gabriel, Stoke Gabriel, Devonshire, on the south west coast of England, is reportedly more than 1,000 years old. This old Yew, like many throughout Great Britain, has managed to grow undisturbed over the millenniums due to the fact that it is rooted within a churchyard. When Christianity came to Britannia the Churches were built on top of Druid holy sites, as a means to force the peoples to convert to the new faith. Given the sacred status the Yew Tree among the Druidic peoples, these holy sites of the Old Faith were usually sites where a Yew was growing. (Photograph taken in 1985 by: Stanley Walker, titled: "Yew Tree" (In the public domain)).

Oak Wise is a remarkable book of poetry from a young poet, L. M. Browning, who writes with great passion, conviction and integrity about a transformative process, which has cast her back to an ancient set of animistic beliefs and faiths immanent in the concreteness of the earth itself. It is a book of deep personal expression: an exploration of the spiritual world of shamanism and Druidism in poetic form, which is both intense and contemplative. Essentially she reaches back to liberate and, at the same time, enable herself to forge ahead with copasetic resolution and confidence. It is a book of poetry to which you will often find yourself returning and each time with renewed enjoyment and reward.

REVIEWS
"Browning’s poems are of exquisite quality. Like all excellent poetry, no modifier, no imagery, no reference is gratuitous. Ms Browning’s literary background is not only impressive, it is esthetically set to reinforce and construct a world of rich imagery. This work, is a serious expression with a precise goal and a dexterous poetic sense of architecture. There is a philosophical peace that overlays even the passages of questioning and unease in the writer’s mind. The author takes us to a beautiful lyrical place that she has found and uses her talent as a poet to entice us." ― Jean-Yves Vincent Solinga, Ph.D, author of In the Shade of a Flower and Clair-Obscur of the Soul “In societies that still bear an imprint of ‘the shamanic,’ male and female shamans are a voice of the sacred. In these worlds, from bardic Ireland to the crazy wisdom ngakpas of the Himalayas, poetry is a facet of the shamanic tradition. The work of L. M. Browning is undoubtedly one of these wisdom-streams. Her sight, voice and verses are a force of nature, simultaneously reminding us what we’ve forgotten and foretelling what we must remember to survive.” ―Frank Owen, creator of the online poetry experience NEKYIA.POETRY

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Cover Photograph: “Fallen,” by Steven Schnoor Cover and Book design: Michael Linnard