[This issue, we sit down with author Katrina Townsend. Here, she discusses her personal practices; her new book, The Anti-Consumerist Druid; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual practice? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Katrina Townsend: I am mainly inspired by Druidry, but since I’ve only begun studying the tradition fairly recently, and I haven’t committed to any of the courses from the big-name Druid organisations (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and the British Druid Order here in the UK – these are very well-regarded courses, I should add, I’m just by nature not a joiner, and reluctant to impose strong structure and scripted ritual into my personal practice before I’ve had ample chance to explore and develop ideas as far as I can myself), I’m not sure whether I can consider myself anything like a ‘proper’ Druid! I’ve seen the term ‘hedge Druid’ used for someone who is not a member of a grove, and I like the term a lot. However I do like to work intuitively, and as a solo practitioner I feel more able to adapt to the present moment but also disregard things which don’t sit right with me – I’m not a fan of having a path prescribed for me.
ev0ke: Which Deities, powers, or other spirits do you honor in your tradition?
KT: I honour Brigid as my matron goddess. Although I’ve been interested in Paganism since I was a young teen, I’d never been able to make a connection with anything beyond myself, and eventually I became disheartened and moved on. When I returned to these ideas as an adult and started again with the absolute basics, my interest arising naturally from my deepening connection with the earth, Brigid reached out to me, and it was so intense and obvious that even at my most sceptical I couldn’t choose to ignore it. I love having that constant reminder that there is absolutely nothing mundane about the everyday world as long as we are open to enchantment.
My next step is going to be working more with the ancestors – I know this is very fundamental in many traditions, including Druidry, but it’s something I’ve been avoiding as my dad passed away last year, so it’s felt very raw and I haven’t been ready, but it’s something I very much want to incorporate more into my practice.
ev0ke: Your book The Anti-Consumerist Druid will be released through Moon Books in December. Congratulations! How did this book come about? Did you approach Moon Books or did they come to you?
KT: Thank you! It’s been my dream to have a book in print ever since I was very young, but I can honestly say I never thought my first book would be a Pagan memoir!
It all grew out of a journal I started keeping when I tried to quit shopping in 2019. I had a real problem with shopping, it had completely taken over my life and my thoughts, wrecked my finances, so I wanted to go cold turkey and give up shopping for a year. I started the journal to keep track of my thoughts and feelings, and stay accountable to myself. After a couple of years trying, failing, and trying again to quit shopping I started a blog (katrinaconsumed.blogspot.com), and eventually I started to think there might be a book in it. I spun a chunk of my journal into a handful of sample chapters and sent it to Changemakers, a sister imprint of Moon Books, and I fully expected nothing to come of it. I didn’t send it directly to Moon Books because I wasn’t convinced it was ‘Pagan enough’! But Changemakers passed it on to Moon Books, who accepted my proposal!
ev0ke: You talk quite openly in The Anti-Consumerist Druid about your shopping addiction, and the impact it had on your self-esteem, your relationships, and your finances. What advice can you offer to other shopaholics who want to stop (or slow) their spending, but are struggling to do so?
KT: Despite the difficulties I’ve had with quitting cold turkey, I still think it’s a valuable thing to attempt and I would recommend that everyone at least give it a try, as the biggest changes in me and in my life have occurred when I’ve managed to go the longest periods without shopping. The trouble is that it’s a very counter-intuitive thing to try to do in our society, and I’ve noticed that even the majority of people who wouldn’t define themselves as having a problem with shopping balk at the idea of giving it up, even for a few weeks! Facing a shopping addiction is going against the grain in many ways, and you have to remind yourself that there are several billion-pound industries who don’t want you to spend less, who prefer it when you’re not thinking clearly and in control of your decisions, so don’t beat yourself up if you slip from time to time, because it’s not all on you.
I have also come to think that shopping less is something beneficial to almost everyone in this privileged subset of Western society, not just self-defined shopaholics. The rate of our consumption is actively destroying the earth, and when we take a step back from it, we can see that it’s not brilliant for our mental health either. Instead of being makers or do-ers, we have become primarily consumers, which is not how we were designed to live.
There are some great resources out there to help us slow our shopping – some books that helped me are To Buy or Not To Buy by April Lane Benson, Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, Consumed by Aja Barber, and The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. I’ve also found it helpful to actively surround myself with more anti-consumerist viewpoints and narratives, so I follow YouTubers like Gittemary and ecofriend.Lia, and for a more Pagan bent, the work of creatives like Gods and Radicals (Rhyd Wildermuth, Alley Valkyrie, Asa West, and Emma Kathryn being a few I could name off the top of my head), and Moss at Spiral Path, whose workshops and newsletter I adore – https://www.walkthespiralpath.co.uk/
ev0ke: There is a lot of debate in the wider Pagan community on the “aesthetics” of witchcraft, Druidry, et cetera. Do you think there is such a think as a Pagan “aesthetic” that people should adopt, or should be encouraged to adopt?
KT: Certainly in my area of Britain there is a definite “look” associated with Paganism, which you can see in media coverage of the rituals of Stonehenge, or if you visit Glastonbury high street. Interestingly (to me anyway!), it tends to be a wilder and earthier look than the very perfected, photogenic aesthetic of what my husband calls Insta-witches. Whilst I don’t think that anyone should be encouraged to dress any particular way beyond the realms of what is comfortable or practical for them, I feel that for those of us who enjoy clothing, it can be easy to end up prioritising the aesthetic over doing the actual work, which is deeply counterproductive. However in a lot of cases people obviously find expressing themselves through clothing liberating and enjoyable, which is great!
That said, my pet peeve is people talking a big talk about their connection to the earth, making a big show of their personal ‘nature loving’ practice, whilst buying crystals mined by child labourers, clothing sewn by women in poverty, food wrapped in five layers of plastic and imported by air freight from Peru, polluting our ‘sacred’ water with toxic hair dye and cosmetics… It really grinds my gears! I strongly feel that Pagans, if we really consider ourselves “earth-based” or “nature-connected”, should be leading the way in the environmental movement, not just going barefoot at ritual every six weeks and considering that enough. Not that we all have to be – or can be – perfectly green zero wasters, but I deeply feel that our values should actually be reflected by our actions as much of the time as we can manage, not just in ritual.
ev0ke: What other resources would you recommend to those who are pursuing an anti-consumerist ethic? Especially resources with a spiritual underpinning?
KT: Ahaha I love this question! As well as the resources I mentioned before, which I heartily recommend, I’d point you in the direction of Nimue Brown and their excellent, thought-provoking book Druidry and the Future, as well as the Druid Life blog; Joanna van der Hoeven’s blog Down the Forest Path; the Druid’s Garden blog by Dana O’Driscoll and her book Sacred Actions; the work of Starhawk and the Reclaiming movement; The Enchanted Life by Sharon Blackie; the books of Mark Boyle; the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett; Leena Norms’s YouTube channel; Rooted by Lyanda Lynn Haupt; Wild by Jay Griffiths …. I could probably ramble on all day! (I do have a Recommended Reading page on my blog which I try to keep updated with titles as I come across them.)
ev0ke: Which bookfairs, conventions, or other events do you hope to attend in the foreseeable future?
KT: I have nothing definite in my calendar at the moment until the Valhalla Viking Festival next summer (I’m not attending as a vendor, but I’ll probably have a few book copies about my person if you happen to run into me there!), but I’m hoping to pop up at a number of bookshops over the next few months – details will be on my social media as I have them (Katrina Townsend on Facebook and @katrinatownsendauthor on Instagram).
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
KT: A dear friend and I have been collaborating on a potential new book, but we are both busy with other responsibilities so progress is slow! I keep promising myself that one day I’ll write a novel I actually like (I have thirteen moderately terrible manuscripts hanging around from my teen years that my husband thinks I should re-edit and send out into the world), but meanwhile I’m raising a child, the project that takes up most of my time!