Book Review: The Awen Alone
I've just finished a lovely book. The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid is part of the Pagan Portals series, shortish introductions to a variety of pagan subjects. For such a brief book, this one is certainly packed full. Joanna van der Hoeven has done an excellent job of creating a useful reference that's good for dipping your toes in but also promises to be worth referring back to farther along the line.
For starters, it has one of the best introductions to Druidry that I've read. Section One: Basics of Druidry is concise and understandable, combining interesting historical information with the tenets of modern Druid practice. There's a chapter dedicated to the concept of the Awen, a hard-to-pin-down term that's a Mystery of sorts. The author leads the reader to an understanding of the Awen not through dictionary definitions but through descriptions of experience that are a delight to read.
This really is a thorough introduction; its short length hides a great depth. The author addresses the place of the gods and the ancestors in Druidry and provides a description of the eight major Druidic festivals of the year. But to me, the best part is Section Two: Druidry in Practice. From the different kinds of meditation to prayer and pathworkings, these are real things the aspiring Druid can do each day to walk along the path. The chapter on working with the seasons is especially well thought out, offering ideas beyond the usual "make an altar and do a ritual" for appreciating our relationship with the Earth around us as it shifts through its yearly cycles.
The final section, titled Creating Your Own Path, offers a framework for the reader to design their own Druid ritual, as well as suggestions for daily practices to help embed Druidry into the reader's life. Throughout the book, the author emphasizes the fact that Druidry is a practice, not a theory. It's something you have to do every day, and keep doing, if you want to get something out of it. In other words, it takes effort, but that effort will be rewarded with a more meaningful life. The book ends with some helpful resources, including websites and suggested reading.
Though the book is officially aimed at people who follow a solitary path, I think The Awen Alone also works as an introduction to Druidry for people who are looking to join a group. After all, you're not going to just 'turn off' your spirituality when you walk out of the group's latest ritual. At least, I hope you're not. So whether you're just looking to find out what Druidry is all about, or you want to follow the Druid path alone or with others, I recommend The Awen Alone as a valuable resource.