Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wherein I Digress ... A Lot

Wow. When I noted here on my blog that "I belong to two Druid orders" in a list of personal trivia items, I had no idea that there would be so much response and curiosity from people who read the post. Because I've done a few of these little awards that require the publication of these lists, I was running out of even marginally interesting factoids. This apparently was an interesting one. Who knew? Since I am not sure whether folks want to know about Druidism generally or my interest in the discipline specifically, I'll address both as succinctly as I can.

There's a lot to say about contemporary Druidism. There excellent books on the subject and dumb ones, and a lot of places to find out about it, but I think just an attempt at the basics will satisfy curiosity here.

To begin with, I want to point out that Rowan Williams, a recent and former Archbishop of Canterbury, is a member of a Welsh Druid order, his designation part of the Gorsedd of Bards. As is Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family because of their special connection to Wales. Their induction was into a cultural and social order, promoting the preservation and development of the Welsh language and cultural traditions.

Princess Elizabeth, 1946 Glamorgan, Wales

Although this order dates from the Celtic Revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries, it's survived as one of the oldest of the many contemporary groups that seek to make a modern connection with the ancient Iron Age social and spiritual structures that defined Druidism. There has been lots of interest from the children of the Celtic diaspora. In the US, one of the first organized attempts began with students at Carleton College who, in 1963, established the RDNA (The Reformed Druids of North America) as a Monty Python-esque political response to a requirement that students attend regular religious services. The idea evolved into something more serious minded, and the RDNA is still around with some 400 groves (affiliated groups) and as many as 4000 self-identified Druids. The Wikipedia entry on Druidism says that " According to the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), there are approximately 30,000 Druids in the United States. There are approximately 50,000 Druids worldwide." These figures come from their2001 survey.

And before I go much further, I also need to point out that the image of a Gandalf-class wizard with blue fire springing from his fingertips has nothing at all to do with the practice of contemporary Druidism. This figure now belongs in cos-play and gaming and epic sci-fantasy fiction, although he has his origins in Celtic folklore and mythology.

In a big, fat, seriously oversimplified nutshell, the ancient Druids were the functionaries of the educated classes of the cultures that spoke the Celtic languages. Those languages evolved in parts of the ancient world that are now continental Europe and the British isles. Where there were Celts, there were Druids. They were the teachers, judges, lawyers, priests, politicians, poets, musicians, storytellers, historians and other intelligentsia of their tribes. We know precious little first-hand information about them because, while many were literate and could read and write in Greek and Latin, they did not leave written records of their own. The corpus of written history comes primarily from the Roman records of their occupation of Britain and the parts of conquered Europe inhabited by the Celtic tribes. Essentially, they are reports about the vanquished by the victors, and have to be approached with care. We have other information from remnants of oral tradition and folk tales, and most interestingly to me, the early medieval records of very ancient Irish Brehon law. We have educated assumptions based on archeology, anthropology and linguistics. However, there is no direct, unbroken connection between Iron Age Celts and modern Druidism. No matter how much people would like there to be one, there just isn't. It is a part of a repeating revival of interest in all things Celtic, and a deliberate effort has been made to reconstruct the essence of the real thing.

Today, modern Druidism is as varied as the groups and individuals who claim it as a philosophical or spiritual pursuit, or both. It can be practiced in highly stratified orders, or small casually organized groups or it can be an individual pursuit. It is one of the rare spiritual disciplines that has connections with both Christianity and the neo-pagan belief systems of the Western World, and has acknowleged roots in early Indo-European religions.

To further oversimplify using the time-honored nutshell method; here are some of the primary ideas understood and accepted by most Druids and Druid organizations:

A highly valued relationship with the natural world, and by extension all our primary human relationships, an understanding of the connectedness of everything. Most Druids consider the relationship to the Land as primary sacred concept, and are consequently concerned in some way with environmental issues. From this understanding of the natural world flows the more poetic approach to life and death, ancient beliefs in reincarnation, rebirth and renewal, and the idea of otherworlds.
Druids are universally tree lovers.

Seasonal festivals
There are four major celebrations inspired by ancient agricultural festivals, the seasons of nature and survival ... this is one area that is more or less traceable to actual practices. There are four more dictated by solar and lunar events that are sometimes included in modern tradition, but not viewed as historically likely. Not all are celebrated universally.

Values, Virtues and Ethics
Druidism places high value on the virtues of truth, wisdom, honor, courage, personal responsibility, integrity, self-knowledge, hospitality, friendship, generosity, and creativity. Especially creativity, which is honored within the concept of "Awen," the divine fire of inspiration.

Ancestors are venerated. That extends to intellectual or artistic lineages and inspirators. Family and community are valued, but those ideas are not limited to only the most traditional versions. There are lots of ways to experience family through Druidism.

Theology (a discussion that is just too big to be tackled here ...)
But, on the subject of deity, I can say that Druidism acknowledges monotheism, polytheism, all the isms. Or none of them, and there are lots of Druidy types who are not religious at all and regard their practice as pure philosophy.
(A personal note on one of the reasons I appreciate Druid theology; Druidism is non-dogmatic. Philip Carr-Gomm, a well respected author closely associated with The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) was right when he wrote; “most Druids are keen to avoid the problems caused by dictating a morality to others.” (What Do Druids Believe? p. 59.) Consequently, there is no proselytizing by modern Druids. I particularly like that. )

Most believe in gravity and the scientific method.
There is an acknowledged value attached to any honest pursuit of knowledge, the attainment of education, scholarship and academic excellence. Critical thinking is valued as well as creativity.


This last virtue brings me to my personal response to Druidism. It is important to me that my spiritual life is able to exist comfortably with my intellectual life. Contemporary Druidism allows that. Druidism is not a received and revealed religion, and there is no sacred text to define it's parameters. But it is an inspired response to some of the cultural values that were likely part of the lives of my own ancestors and now resonate with my own life in the modern world. The Druids of the Iron Age Celtic tribes were the stewards of all that we now define as civilization. It was their job to seek order, justice and peace and to promote reason, beauty and spirituality within a warrior culture. The intellectual legacy of ancient Druidism belongs not only to men but to women as well, who we know participated in these important civil functions and public life more fully than elsewhere in the classical world. I'm drawn to Druidism's beauty, and I practice the elements of it that give me the most satisfaction.

Modern Druidism is a system of many uses for me, inspired by ideals that can be thoughtfully and happily applied to my personal life and my response to the world around me. The idea isn't to try to act as an ancient druid in a modern time, or impose the culture of ancients on our own era. It is to approach the above values and virtues with an evolved understanding and then apply them to the issues that we face in a modern world.

I belong to the moderately-sized but international Order of the White Oak (Ord na Darach Gile) and to the very small Triskele Oaks Grove, a small independent group. Beyond that, I'm pretty much a garden variety contemporary Druidess. Any more than that, I only feel comfortable keeping to myself or sharing with those who love me and therefore have to put up with me.

If you have other questions that you'd like me to address, you can reach me through my email address: kelts at centurytel dot net.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Old Mizrahi Trench Coat and Shining On!

Wow! It's apparently Award Season, 'cause I have another this week. (And here I am without my red carpet dress. Drat. So typical. ) I've been nominated for the Shine On Award by not one, but TWO of my bloggy peers. First by the ever-lovely Seeker from her thoughtful blog, Searching the Inner Me . Then by the fabulous Maricel at her always intriguing blog, My Closet Catalogue . I'm honored that these two women thought enough of my little blog to send this kind of shout-out.

Here are the rules:
  1. Display the award logo on your blog.
  2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  3. State seven things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
  5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award requirements.  

Instead of nominating specific bloggers for this award, I'm going to modify the rules a bit and declare that if you are reading this, and that you are a blogger and wish to play, YOU should consider yourself nominated. Congratulations! And because I'm as nosy as the next woman, I'd love it if you post your seven bits of personal trivia below in the comments section. Or you can do the full-on nomination process at your own blog and say it came from me!

Seven Facts About Me

1. Two foods I cannot turn down are tacos and chocolate cake.
2. I lived in Alaska for a decade.
3. I really have to read for a while before turning in for the night.
4. I belong to two Druid orders.
5. I don't leave the house without my Kindle Fire.
6. My BFA came with the distinction magna cum laude. Ahem.
7. I retained one of my baby teeth until my 50s (in my mouth along with my grown-up teeth, not in a keepsake box.)

I had to have Dan help me come up with these ... I'm just about out of even vaguely interesting tid-bits of information about myself.

What I Wore to the Big City on Sunday

The high on Saturday was just a little under 70°F and I was feeling all spring-ish. By Sunday, it had dropped to a very gray, windy and chilly 57°F so I regretfully rethought my choice of my little Peter Pilotto dress and cute little strappy shoes. Some plowing through the closet resulted in the unearthing one of my old-favorite and recently neglected items; my Isaac Mizrahi (yes, for Target) trench coat with a burnout eyelet embroidery hem.

It's great for seasonal transitions as it's lightweight. And I had a compliment on it from a dear little old lady (well, older than me, anyway) who thought it was the prettiest raincoat she'd seen. It's just the right time to bring it out and about for this changeable end of winter, and it always cheers me up a little to wear it.

Linking up with
The Tough-Girl Patti at Visible Monday
and the Fashion Week Observing Seeker at Tres Chic Style Bits
Join us!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dining in My Pajamas and A Golden Blog Award from Alice

On Valentine's Day, Dan and I spend our day at our restaurant trying to make our guests' visit on this compulsorily romantic day as special as they wanted it to be. We really needed a busy weekend, and we got it. We were almost overwhelmed, but we made it through and we're both still beat. By Sunday night, we were ready to limp into the Big City and try to celebrate a little ourselves. Our favorite teppanyaki style restaurant is pretty casual and that allowed me to dress just like I wanted to: in pajamas. Grilled lobster served to me while I sit comfy and cozy in my PJs ... now that's a decadent fantasy.

To my credit, my pink, fuzzy, Hello Kitty jams were ruled out fairly quickly, although I considered trying to elevate them somehow. (Maybe with a nude heel and statement necklace? No, I was only tired and lazy, not completely devoid of decorum.) I settled for loose, silky black pants, a long georgette tunic shirt and a soft tank. Almost pajamas, and I chose my ultra-comfy-yet-saucy Michael Kors platform sandals. Not my most flattering look, but I love how the pieces rippled and flowed as I sauntered into the restaurant on Dan's arm. Made it easy to drape myself over a barstool while waiting to be seated. Yup. Dinner in my pajamas ... almost.

Not my most flattering outfit, but it sure suited my low-energy and lightly louche attitude. We had a great time.

The wonderful and lovely Alice at Happiness at Midlife (one of my petite role models and a print-mixing expert extraordinaire) has sweetly nominated me for the Golden Blog Award. It's a first for me with this particular award, and very nice thing to see in my inbox!  Thank you so much, Alice.  You are a daily inspiration and very cool girl.

Here's how it works:
1. Post a picture of the award, or create your own

2. Link to the person who nominated you
3. Give 10 random facts about yourself
4. Nominate other bloggers

In turn I'll nominate a little bunch of lovely bloggers that I wish to know better or just hear more from...

Laurie at Elusive Onions

Ten Random Facts About Me:

1. My new favorite crime drama: True Detective
     Who knew McConaughey could go so dark?
    ( Haven't seen Dallas Buyers Club ... reviews, anyone?)
2. My favorite red wine is a big, dark, peppery red zinfandel. ( Not to be confused with white zinfandel ... not the same thing at all.)
3. I can't stand licorice or anise flavors.  Ugggch.
4. My current favorite floral fragrance comes from
     the Stargazer lily ... there were some in my Valentine's Day bouquet. I'm newly and completely enchanted.
5. I never use nail polish. But this might change as products get better.
6. I collect self-winding, mechanical-skeleton wrist watches.
7. I'm convinced that all Teddy Bears are sentient. 
     Not all stuffed animals, just Teds.
8. I play the piano. Sort of. A little.
9. I refuse to name a favorite color. They're all necessary. 
    (I admit that I'm not completely in love with the ochres.)
10. Our parakeets are named after Salinger's Franny and Zooey, the two youngest members of the Glass family.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Linking up with the Very Dressy Seeker at 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pilotto and Target and Me

We love our personal rituals, don't we? Besides the big occasions that mark our lives - holidays, birthdays, spiritual or religious events, anniversaries - we each have our private, singular rites that we choose to do to help us get through our days with our skin intact, make life a tad more interesting and meaningful, or just improve the quality of our mundane world. Little rituals.

And those of you who are kind enough to frequent these pages know that one of mine is to get up very early on the designated Sunday and drive many miles to show up for the first hours of availability of Target collaborations with designers like Issack Mizrahi, Prabal Garung or Phillip Lim. These events happen only a couple of times a year and feature the ideas of designers whose work I will never get to wear in any other way. My husband doesn't have to participate in this rite but he does, 'cause he's just that kind of guy. I'm the only woman who has turned up recently for these events at our local Target ... there's no fanfare, no excitement, no long lines of eager customers ... just me and Dan, my sleepy chauffeur.

Very early morning me, waiting for Target to open.  As there was no line, I opted to
play on the architectural elements of the store front.  As one does.
And looking more comfortable than I was in the the cold.

We weren't going to do it this time, but we did. The weather was against the local debut ... it was very cold and gray and I understand why sensible women stayed home. We decided to show up just so someone in the area would be there to offer a little interest and at least fly the flag.

Ritual was satisfied, but that was about it, because I was underwhelmed by the collection when I actually got to touch it and try things on. This collection has lots of beautiful and interesting qualities and the pieces are going to be fabulous on some women, somewhere, but I am clearly not the woman that these designers had in mind as the customer.

Peter Pilotto, the brand (which is not just one guy, but both Mr. Pilotto and his design cohort Christopher De Vos as a team,) is famous for their bright prints. The collaboration didn't disappoint on that front. The prints were vivid and of-the-moment, and look fabulous on the very tall models wearing them in the ads. The pre-mixed prints were fun to look at, but the love wasn't coming back to me when I tried them on. The very interesting patterns were overwhelming on the racks, and just as overwhelming on my very short frame. Many of the colors were more acidic than is flattering on me. Many of the pieces had raglan sleeves, and I don't wear those well. Others had cap sleeves, and ditto on those as unflattering for me. There was quite a lot of neoprene, which can result in a sculptural coolness, but I didn't really like how it was applied to this collection. Lookbooks are neat for previewing collections, but you don't get the tactile feedback.

Three racks total for our small Target ...
 this center rack and two smaller ones on either side


I counted only 17 items out of the 70-something items in the entire collection, and only one of the items I thought I might like was available. I did like a red, blue and black summer dress, and I did try it and buy it, and you'll see it here eventually. It will require alterations, as so many items do, but I know I'll like it when I'm finished.

This completed ritual wasn't an unqualified success for me, but it was a refresher-lesson on three pretty important concepts.

The first is this: not all style ideas are suited to all women, but the part for me to remember is that it wasn't my fault the line didn't work perfectly for me. Most of the silhouettes weren't flattering for me, and the garment needs to work for the wearer and not the other way around. This I learned from Tim Gunn.

The second is that when I alter a garment to suit my figure or taste, I get to become a part of the creative process. The designer makes a template for me to finish and adapt and make my own. That applies to fit alterations, but also to styling choices that we all make when we decide how WE choose to wear an item.

And finally, when I alter an item to fit my specific frame, it ceases to be any size other than mine. Rather than a size 6, or an 8 or a 10 or a size 12, it becomes "size Jan." The item becomes really my own. And when you look at it that way, how cool that?

Linking up with Season Defying Patti at 
and Fashion Week Reporting Seeker at

Monday, February 3, 2014


This is WIWHW for my birthday dinner. What I Would Have Worn, if it hadn't snowed and sleeted and kept us from going into The Big City for dinner as planned. Oh, well. Soon. Very soon.

The only thing you haven't seen here is my new leather skirt. Okay, not leather. Faux, but pretty good faux. It's very soft and I like the drape and texture. And it has pockets! I'm currently obsessing about midi skirts and and I found a very good buy on this one. It just wasn't intended to be a midi.

I was afraid that this was going to be a style that would hard to wear with my short waist and frame. And on my problematic shape, not all skirts are created equal. I knew proportional length would be tricky, and most midis look best with a tucked shirt ... always challenging for me.

This skirt was intended to be an at-the-knee length for the average height woman, but I liked the way the pleats are flat and fall from a slightly wider waist band. So I just bought it a size larger and that allows it to ride a little lower, just beneath my natural waist. Lower on the waist means a longer look ... and voilà! It is now a below-the-knee midi look that works for me. But best of all, the lower waist means that when I tuck in a shirt, I get just an extra inch or so of torso! Problem solved.

Another validation that size is only a number. Buy the size that works, 'cause there are lots of ways to work a size!


Joining the Pink Statement Seeker at her linky party Tres Chic Style Bits ... stop by or, better yet, come out to play!

And at the Lovely Sacramento's
 Share in Style where I'm almost Gothic, but not quite!

(and late breaking)

 with the Season Defying Patti at

 Visible Monday