[This issue, we sit down for an interview with Druid, author, and poet, Luke Eastwood. Here, he discusses his personal spiritual practices; his new book, The Druid Garden; and his forthcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual practice? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Luke Eastwood: I am a Druid, but I also have an interest in other spiritual paths such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Taoism. I would not describe my practice as eclectic, really, as it is quite specific. I am not a huge fan of syncreticism, but I understand its wide appeal. I enjoy looking at other paths and noting the similarities, but I prefer not to make a hodge-podge in what I do. I do yoga and reiki, but not as part of my Druid path. I regard them both as separate additional practices that I find beneficial. I tend to stick within the Irish traditions as that is where I live, where some of my ancestry is from, and it’s also the path I know and understand best. Within that, a lot of ritual is intuitive and ad hoc as I don’t like following scripts; I prefer a more ‘quaker’ like process where one can be inspired by spirit, imbas, awen, or whatever you might call it.
ev0ke: Which Deities, powers, or other spirits are honored in your tradition?
LE: In neo-Druidism that encompasses the Irish gods, British and Gaulish gods, and Arthurian archetypes. I tend to work with the Irish deities mostly as it’s local and familiar. I have a particular penchant for Brigid, Áine, and Lugh. I am very solar-oriented generally, but I also have worked with ‘an Cailleach’ as needed, especially during the winter.
Nature itself is very much revered in Druidry/Druidism, whether anthropomorphised or not, which is similar to Taoism in some respects and the Taoist viewpoint is something I very much enjoy. Holy wells, trees, and sacred sites are still important in modern Druidism, just as they would have been in the original practice, although methods have undoubtedly changed considerably from those of pre-Christian times.
ev0ke: You just released The Druid Garden: Gardening For A Better Future, Inspired By The Ancients through Moon Books. First, congratulations! Second, how did this book come about? Why a book about gardening from a druidic perspective?
LE: I felt there is a gap between thought and action, in Paganism (as is also true elsewhere). Many people who profess to ‘love the Earth’ don’t do a whole lot on a practical level and rather than go around lecturing everyone I thought that a practical book, that anyone could use, would be of greater benefit. It might also serve as a way of introducing spiritual ideas to gardeners who might be inclined that way, but have not made the connections in a concrete way. There is a mixture of folklore, history, spirituality, and practical instruction — primarily I wrote it to be useful and something people could use as a reference guide.
ev0ke: The Druid Garden treats the practical and the sacred, the mundane and the spiritual, as two halves of a whole. Composting is just as important as making offerings to the land. How long did it take you to create your own garden? What was the most difficult, but ultimately rewarding, aspect of the process?
LE: I have had several gardens. As a six/seven year-old, my parents gave me a tiny vegetable plot, which was disastrous. I forgot to water the plants during the worst drought in decades! My dad took it back after some time which stung a bit, but I was not keen on the digging, shelling peas, et cetera anyway.
After university I rediscovered gardening at an old Georgian house that I shared — the walled garden was abandoned and I enjoyed fixing it up. Later on I planted a small grove of trees in Wexford (east coast Ireland) and then a larger one, with many ornamental areas, too, at my next house (also in Wexford). Right now I have a tiny north facing back garden (in Kerry, west coast Ireland) so I grow most things in containers at the moment in front of the house. I have plans to plant another larger grove of trees and re-wild areas, but that may be a few years away into the future.
ev0ke: The Druid Garden also includes Land Blessings. Can you give us an example of one of these blessings? And how did you go about writing them?
LE: The simplest one and most used one I have is a planting blessing, when I re-pot or plant permanently — “May you be blessed by earth and rain and wind and sun, may you grow straight/wide, strong, and true.” I say this during or after, to the plant directly, which may seem daft to some, but I believe it has a positive effect. I just make up blessings as feels right. There is no rule about it. Personally I think it is more effective to write one yourself that has meaning and power for you, than to use someone else’s words. Of course, that does not suit everyone, so whatever is going to be helpful and beneficial for the plants and your own inner connection to them and to nature generally is fine.
ev0ke: How much research went into The Druid Garden? Long hours online? Long walks in your own garden? Stacks of books?
LE: It took me three years to get the manuscript finished. The research and regurgitation of factual information was really boring for me and I hated that part of the book, but I just forced myself to do at least one plant a day until it was done. The other sections were a lot easier and fun, as personal experience came into play a lot more. The history section did take a lot of reading different books and articles and was a good learning process for myself. Much of it was stuff I already knew to some extent, but I did also find out a lot of details that I had previously not known about. I did spend a lot of time thinking either outside or just fiddling around — I tend to write in my head or at least get the bulk of the material together there. When I sit down and I start writing it all comes pouring out at speed, almost as if my hands know what to write already and only minor adjustments happen as I go. I’ll usually write a whole section or even a whole chapter in one sitting.
ev0ke: You also co-wrote Kerry Folk Tales with Gary Branigan. Which story did you absolutely have to include in the collection, and why?
LE: It’s a bit of an odd one: “A Strange Tale of Oliver Cromwell,” which the publisher wanted to leave out. It’s actually a fantasy told by a child in the 1930’s (received from a grandparent) in which Cromwell is killed in Ireland. It’s such an oddity that I felt compelled to include it and I also detailed the even more strange true story of what actually happened to Cromwell’s remains, which most people would not know about. From an Irish perspective, I think this story is very satisfying as he is probably the most reviled and hated figure in Irish history, and rightly so!
ev0ke: You have also released a solo poetry collection, Through the Cracks in the Concrete the Wilderness Grows, and some of your work appears in Where the Hazel Falls. What advice might you offer to those who are considering the publication of their own poetry collections? Things they must do? Mistakes to avoid?
LE: Poetry is a difficult one. It does not generally sell that well, apart from the big famous names, and it’s a very subjective thing anyway. It’s hard to find a publisher for poetry as it tends to be a low profit venture and something that many people do simply for the love of it. I would recommend that any poet get several objective and honest opinions before committing to self-publishing. Scotsman William McGonagal (late 1800s) published his work through the support of friends and even in his own lifetime was widely acknowledged as terrible, but he kept goinng regardless of the lampooning and constant ridicule. He is renowned today as ‘the worst poet ever,’ but he is actually now very popular, simply because his work was so shockingly bad and it’s quite hilarious as a result. One would want to avoid gaining a similar reputation, but unfortunately many ‘vanity publishers’ will tell you that your work is excellent simply to deprive you of large amounts of money for design and printing — beware of these charlatans!
ev0ke: Where can readers find your work?
LE: You can buy all of my books (signed) at my website or from the usual retailers. You can also read most of my articles and some poems for free on my website, too.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
LE: I am working on a children’s book with author/illustrator Elena Danaan at the moment. I also keep my hand in with music (such as Children Of Dub and Kopyright Assassins) and I do bits of photography when I can. I tend to go in cycles of being really into one particular art form for a while and then switching back to something else. If find that it’s really difficult to juggle them all at the same time without doing a poor job of all of it, so I tend to focus on one thing at a time generally!