“The Awen I sing, from the deep I bring it” – Taliesin.
The Awen is the heart and centre of Druidry. Poetically translated from Welsh, it can be taken to mean “flowing spirit” or inspiration. Awen is the inspiring force that flows through all things, Awen is the song of the world and the music of the turning spheres. Awen is the drum beat of our hearts, the pulse of the land, the silence in between the notes.
Awen is awareness, not just consciously or intellectually, but at a deep level, of the invisible yet ever present threads of connection that unite all things. Awen is the inspiration that opens our hearts to the enchantment of Being.
Awen is the “fire in the head”, the bolt of sudden, all-blazing inspiration, but it is more than that. Awen is with us at all times – we just need to create the space in our heads and our lives to know it.
Druid rituals almost always include chanting or singing the word Awen, invoking and opening to the power of inspiration, inhaling and exhaling that inspiration in an endless cycle. The Awen, like the Hindu Om, is a sound that sends a shiver down the spine, reverberates through the body, shifts consciousness away from the everyday worries to the sacred Now.
Awen to greet the rising sun. Awen to sing in response to the crashing waves. Awen with the choir of the stars.
The reason Awen is called upon so much in Druidry, I think, is because we need to make a conscious connection with inspiration. We can’t sit around and wait for inspiration to hit us, we need to create and hold space for inspiration, the flowing spirit of Awen, to flow.
Writers, poets, artists, musicians all know that inspiration doesn’t come from nowhere: it comes from practice, regular discipline, doing the work. Inspiration is so often also perspiration. So, daily connection with Awen is a signal to the mind that at this time, this moment, I choose to connect to inspiration.
Creativity is one of the great gifts of humanity. It’s what we, at our best, do. From cave art and clay goddesses to symphonies, libraries, languages, gardens, the internet: we create. Creating with Awen turns this into a sacred act, a devotional offering to Life itself.
In my own humble practice, I feel this most in the kitchen. Taking raw ingredients and, through the alchemy of cooking, creating something that is greater than the sum of its parts, is my way of connecting with Awen every day. In those moments, I enter a flow state: that wordless and beautiful balance between conscious decision and instinctive action, adding a dash of salt, a handful of herbs, a pinch of chilli, all infused with intention, awareness, gratitude and love.
You don’t need to be a Bard to connect with Awen: I’m no musician, I’m a passable writer and worse poet, but I enjoy cooking. Maybe you connect with Awen by drawing, even just doodles in a private sketchbook, or by knitting, or make up, or political protest, or engineering, or walking. What the creative thing is doesn’t matter, and don’t let anyone try to tell you that to be a Druid you need to be skilled in the “traditional” Bardic arts – not everyone can be a performance poet, and thank goodness or the world would be very tedious. What matters is the inspiration, the Awen and the act of creation.
Awen is the flowing spirit of the world. Of me. Of you.
Find your Awen, and flow with it.
[Prompt from Alison Leigh Lilly’s 30 Days of Druidry]