Interview with Philip Carr-Gomm
Philip Carr-Gomm is interviewed by Steve Nobel about his book – The Druid Animal Oracle. They discuss the history of Druidry, animal power and how the cards have helped Philip in his own life.
The Druids, like the Native Americans, revered animals as sacred guides, guardians and protectors. Now you can bring the power of this ancient Druid wisdom into your life, with this beautifully illustrated oracle.
This stunning book-and-card set allows you to access the wisdom of the animal world drawn from the wellspring of ancient Celtic tradition. By contacting the spirit of the totem animals, you can share in their intuitive knowledge and power, and receive healing, strength and guidance for your own life journey. Consult the animal lore given and interpret the card spreads to gain powerful insights into your life situation and receive positive guidance for the future.
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Steve Nobel: Hello, and welcome. My name is Steve Nobel, and today I’m speaking with Philip Carr-Gomm on the Druid Animal Oracle. Now, Phillip always wanted to be a writer, and really forgot about it until he met a publisher at a dinner party in London. This was when he was in his late 30s. And he was invited to write a book on Druidry, which went on to be a best seller.
Now, Philip is a psychologist, psychotherapist, and writer on Druidry. He’s the author of many books and oracle decks, including the Druid Animal Oracle and the Druid Plant Oracle, both of which he co-authored with his wife, Stephanie. He writes on his website, “Although my spiritual practice is rooted in Druidry, I believe we have entered an era in which we can move beyond attachments to labels, drawing instead upon the perennial wisdom, being inspired by the wisdom in all spiritual paths and teachings, following the way of the universal mystic.”
And you can follow Phillip on his website, at www.PhilipCarr-Gomm.com, and I’ll put a link with this podcast. Philip, welcome, too.
Philip Carr-Gomm: Hi.
Steve Nobel: Can I just ask you about, how did you get involved in Druidry, in the first place?
Philip Carr-Gomm: Well, it was when I was very young, when I was 11. It was as if I sort of woke up, when I was 11. And my dad, although he wasn’t interested in spirituality himself, he was rather strangely surrounded by people who were. And he had a friend, who he worked for, who was the old chief Druid, Ross Nichols. His Druid name was Nuinn, the ash tree. He ran a college in London. My dad worked for him as a tutor. And, because they were friends, he was often round at our house, so he was a sort of uncle figure, who would come round. And so I met him at an early age.
In that same year, I read a biography of the Buddha, the life of the Buddha. And I decided at that point, that that was the most important task, the path, the spiritual path, the path to enlightenment, was the most important sort of task, or game one could play, or task one could accomplish. And then, when I was 15, yes, about 15, I was invited by Ross Nichols, the old chief Druid, to photograph the ceremonies, and to participate in the ceremonies, too. And I became intrigued and fascinated, and asked to join the order.
I went through a period of apprenticeship, through 16 and 17. He wouldn’t let me join until I was 18. The key members of the order cast my horoscope, to decide whether I was worthy, and so on. And then I was initiated on Glastonbury Tor when I was 18. So, that’s how it started. Yeah.
Steve Nobel: Amazing. Was there much connection, did you find, between Buddhism and Druidry? Were there links?
Philip Carr-Gomm: Well, it’s only actually much later. Funnily enough, he gave me a huge book, it seemed like about 800 pages, on the connections between the Proto-Indo-European civilizations, which he felt that I should read in connection with Druidry. He was particularly interested in Jainism, which is a religion that is pre-Vedic, so they say. And the main proponent of Jainism was a contemporary with the Buddha, and was so similar in many ways that people, such as scholars, at some point thought that actually, it was the same person. That there had been a confusion. But it actually was a different person.
And I must confess, I didn’t read the book when I was a teenager. It was too heavy going. And it’s only in the last 10 years that I have come to realise the connections that exist We started a project called The One Tree Project, where we’re working with friends in the Dharmic traditions, in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, to explore the common Indo-European origins of our traditions, because you have these extraordinary similarities between them, Sanskrit and Old Irish, for instance.
So there is a connection, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time. And that’s one of the advantages of getting older, is that you, you know, seeds that were planted … I think we’re in a world where we want things quickly, and the internet has speeded everything up so much, that I think one of the things that I’ve learned is people can say things to you, or you can read an idea in a book, or a spiritual teaching, that can actually only bear fruit years, decades later.
And that was one of the gifts he gave me, when I followed him as a young man, is, I wasn’t aware of how much he was giving me. And there were various things that sort of incubated, for many, many decades, and then came to fruition. And that’s been one of them.
Steve Nobel: Wonderful. Now, I’ve kind of been interested in Druidry, myself. And I know the tradition was not very much liked by the Romans, when they were here in Britain. And actually, they seemed to do their best to wipe it out. And I also know Caesar wrote extensively on the Druids, but not always from a very positive point of view. Much has been lost. Druidry was an oral tradition, and nothing written down. How easy, or challenging, has it been to reconnect with that path?
Philip Carr-Gomm: Well, sure. There’s a down-side and an up-side. But there is a gift inside there. I think one of the things that people think is, well, since classical Druidry, or ancient Druidry, died out by about the sixth or seventh century, because of the incoming Christianity, and Christianity had a monopolist agenda. Prior to that, although the Romans did clamp down on Druidry, you know, most famously in the case of Boudicca, Boadicea, they in fact did actually tolerate local cults.
That was one of their rather cunning ways in which they were able to govern such a vast empire, was not actually trying to repress all the local religions and cults and so on. But Christianity had a different agenda. So, by the seventh century, Druidry had died out in these islands, but the traditions continued in all sorts of ways. And then people became interested in it again, a thousand years later, in the 16th and 17th centuries. So there was this period of the Druidry revival.
So you have 300 years of recorded history of Druidry, modern Druidry if you like, from the sort of 16th, 17th century, on. Which, in itself, is a substantial body of material. But the fact is, it’s undoubtedly true that we’ve lost a lot of material. And unlike indigenous traditions, which have a continuous thread, we don’t have that.
But I think there’s a blessing in that, in as much as, there’s a sort of freshness in modern Druidry, which comes from the fact that we don’t have centuries and centuries of dogma attached to it. Commentary upon commentary, edict upon edict, which the more established religions and the older traditions do have. So I think there’s a gift in that.
And I think you can also turn the whole thing on its head and say, “Well, look. Where do spiritual traditions come from? Where do you believe they come from?” And I believe they come from outside the world of time and space. They come from another dimension. They sort of tumble into our world, at a particular historical point, and at a particular geographical location. And then they do their work.
And so actually, Druidry, once you connect with it, you’re actually connecting with a source beyond time and space. And so that we can be Druids today, we’ve got 300 years of recent past, and of written material to draw on. Then we’ve got traces of these ancient traditions, that you get from way back, the ancient Druids. And you’ve got a kind of direct connection, beyond space and time.
Steve Nobel: Wonderful. Now, here we are talking about Druid Animal Oracle. Judeo-Christian cultures really [00:08:34] taught us to be afraid of animals. You know, there’s the goat association with the Devil, and all that. In subduing the earth, are we not subduing our own primal nature?
Philip Carr-Gomm: Well, I think that’s exactly it. I mean, what you say goes to the heart of the problem that the Abrahamic religions and, to some extent, some of the teachings in Dharmic traditions, as well, rejection of the body and of the flesh, and so on, which have caused huge problems, really. This kind of dualism, where you split your view of the world into good and bad … bad includes the dark, the feminine, the earth; good equals Heaven, the sky, light and so on … are hugely problematic.
And I think the reason why Druidry, and other nature religions and spiritual ways, have become so popular in the last 20, 30 years, is because we’ve seen the consequences of that dualism, in the degradation of the earth, the degradation of women and so on. And we need, desperately need, philosophies and spiritualties that have a holistic view, that don’t split us into body and spirit, but see us as whole beings, including our animal natures, our body natures, as well. And, once you take that approach, you start to see that there’s tremendous law, and tremendous spiritual gifts within the animal realm.
Steve Nobel: Now, the wisdom of the animal world is drawn from this ancient Celtic tradition. Can you say something about the Celts reference, for the animal kingdom?
Philip Carr-Gomm: Well, we have all sorts of interesting findings about animal remains that were buried with human remains, animal sacrifices — or apparent sacrifices — where bones from animals seem to have been put in special places and so on. But primarily, we have the evidence from the stories from Celtic tradition, where animals give us teachings, convey life lessons to us. And really, that’s how Stephanie and I, that was our way into this Druid Animal Oracle, and working with the sacred animals, was looking at the number of stories about animals in Celtic folk tales and traditions.
And, looking at those stories from a 21st Century perspective, and a psychological perspective as well, sort of informed, if one could say, psychological perspective, saying, “What are these actually saying to us today? And what do they mean for us?” And at the time we worked on the Animal Oracle, it was a time when the Folklore Society had its fantastic library in London.
I stumbled upon it by chance, when I was doing my degree in psychology, at UCL. And, when I had to do essays, the Psychology Library was always full of people. And I found this large room around the corner from the Psychology Library, in Senate House in London, which was empty. I wandered in, and I discovered it was the Folklore Society Library, and nobody every went in there. And of course, this was bad news for my psychology essays, because I was so distracted by the volumes on the shelves, but I found this treasure trove of information.
And when I’d left university, years later, when I was working on the Animal Oracle, I would go up to UCL. And you were allowed to borrow 10 books at a time, in those days, so I would take 10 books, old books about Celtic folklore and tales, on the animals. And I would take them home on the train, down to Lewes and Sussex, where we lived, and extract the material. So that’s how, that’s where we had our source material for working with the Druid Animal Oracle.
Steve Nobel: Now, I know that these ancient tribes and clans had their totem animals, and families had totem animals. There’s a great reference for animal kingdom. But, the ancient peoples were not vegetarian. They hunted and ate the animals they thought were sacred. It seems a paradox, really, to me.
Philip Carr-Gomm: Well, it does. We don’t know whether some of them might have been vegetarian. There might have been … The shamans all, in traditional societies, have always been peculiar, and haven’t acted like everybody else. So, who’s to say that that wasn’t the case? But of course, their relationship to the natural world was very different, I think, from ours. And, as much as one could believe, that they were completely embedded in it. And that there was a reverence for, and a respect for the animal world that is very different from the way we go about, with factory farming. A mass sort of consumer production of meat products that we have today.
Steve Nobel: So, working with animal power is an essential feature of shamanism. You mentioned shamanism. Animals were seen in that tradition as teachers and guides, which is a very different way than maybe, modern people look at animals. Animals were revered for their ability to bridge these different worlds of material and spiritual. Can you say something about this, this ability of animals as guides and teachers, and helping us to bridge these different worlds?
Philip Carr-Gomm: Let me give an example, perhaps. Imagine someone who is going through a difficult patch. You know, being a human being in the world today is hard, and we can feel so vulnerable, and subject to so many stresses and traumatic events, and so on. And so feeling weak and vulnerable, and a victim, is sadly something that all of us have felt, and can feel at any given time. But going in meditation, or on a shamanic journey, or going to inside and making contact, when you make contact with an animal guide or teacher, there’s something that’s hard to describe in words. But something happens.
It’s like a meeting where what is conveyed to you, it may come across telepathically as an understanding, as an insight, which you could say is at the mental level. So they give you an understanding. But often, what will happen with an animal guide is, what will be transmitted to you will be a power, an energy, a quality, a feeling, that gives you strength, may give you healing, give you courage, and the ability to face the day or to face the trauma, or to face the difficulty that you’re dealing with.
So, hugely valuable, hugely healing. And this is what is meant when we talk about our animals being able to be guides and healers and teachers. And to be more specific, say, to nuance that, as they say, imagine you’re going through a tricky patch with a partner. You know, you’re having a breakup or a huge misunderstanding with somebody. There are two ways to go, often in those things. Sometimes it’s appropriate to show your strength, to stand firm. To very clearly confront challenge, and challenge the person.
But at other times, the most appropriate strategy is to actually do what you’re supposed to do in Judo, which is to step swiftly aside, and let the other person and weight carry them lumbering out of the way. And depending on, you can imagine, say … The fox is a wonderful symbol of, in the Druid Animal Oracle we’ve got an image of the fox walking on ice. And there’s a way in which the fox is associated with diplomacy, with the ability to tread on ice. In other words, tread very delicately and careful, and to get out of the way when necessary.
And making a connection with a fox as a guide might well help you just to lie low. This isn’t the time to confront this person. Just let it. Or say, meeting the bear might be telling you, “No. Stand tall and firm, and growl a little bit.”
Steve Nobel: Wonderful. I guess, as you was writing this deck, with your wife, and also promoting it over the years, I guess you’ve developed very strong relationships with some of these animals you talk about. And I guess they’re very present with you, in your challenges, projects. Could you say something about their input into your life?
Philip Carr-Gomm: Well, yes. I mean, I think that’s why I follow Druidry, and that’s why I love it, is because every aspect of the natural world, animals, plants, stones, the stars … The idea in Druidry is, there is teaching there. They are allies and friends and partners, in this extraordinary sort of adventure of life that we’re going through. And so, in a way, that affects everything in life. It’s hard to separate out individual instances.
I remember one. I mean, let me give you an example of one case, where I was in the waiting room. I’ve very rarely been in court, but I was in a courthouse, awaiting a hearing about some, anyway, trivial matter, which had gone to court. And what I hadn’t expected is that, in these courts, you sit in the waiting room with the people that you are up against, which is the most extraordinarily challenging situation, to be sitting in a waiting room, like a dentist’s waiting room, with the other side.
I mean, I don’t know whether that happens in all courts, but certainly here, it did. And I remember closing my eyes. You know, the whole process was delayed, so I had to sit for an hour, with this person opposite me. And I went inside and asked for help, and immediately the most beautiful stag appeared in my awareness, and just stood there. And one of the things that happens when you encounter animals in a world, is that you’re often invited to become them. It’s this merging process, which is very beautiful, if you can allow it.
There’s a tremendous dignity in a stag. And one of the things that it conveys is dignity and independence and pride, pride in the best sense of the word. And so I was able, just to become this stag, and just to be there, not being aggressive, not attacking, but just standing tall and standing firm. And so that’s just one example of the way in which one can work with animals, to be of value in one’s everyday life.
Steve Nobel: Brilliant. Brilliant. Now, some of the animals you speak of in the deck are certainly no longer part of the British landscape. You know, for example bears, boars, wolves, for instance. Can they still speak to us from the spirit worlds?
Philip Carr-Gomm: Well, yes. And boars still are, by the way.
Steve Nobel: Really?
Philip Carr-Gomm: Yes. Somebody made a mistake, or the sensible move, of introducing wild boars into some territory in the south of England, and they escaped. And they’re all over the place, now. So, wild boars are around. Bears, of course, are around on mainland Europe. Wolves, too, and there are moves to try and get wolves back into Britain. But of course, what you raise is a very interesting question. What happens to the extinct species? One of the tragedies we’re living in is, we’re going through this mass species extinction, which is extremely serious.
I like to believe, and my inner experience is, is that these beings and these creatures, these magnificent creatures do exist. But, what we experience in the physical world isn’t the only show in town. You know, scientists tell us that everything we see, everything we touch, is only four percent. Because the known universe, what we talk about as matter, is only four percent of what’s out there, which is extraordinary.
So dark matter and dark energy, which are terms for what we don’t understand. We know it exists, but we don’t, so they’ve given it this label, dark matter and dark energy. It comprises 96 percent of reality. That’s an extraordinary, extraordinary statement. I had a wonderful long evening with a professor from UCL, who’s a friend of mine, the other day. For fun, we were trying to convert each other to our points of view. I was trying to convert him to the spiritual worldview. He was trying to convert me to the reductionist scientific worldview.
We didn’t succeed, so in the end we agreed to disagree. But, his parting shot to me was, “Well, you know, you’ve got one argument in your favour, which I can’t deny.” And I said, “What’s that?” And he said, “Well, the fact is, everything I’m talking about relates to four percent of reality, and there’s 96 percent we haven’t got a clue about.” So, you know, what we’re living through and what we’re experiencing, from our own personal difficulties and triumphs, through to the difficulties that we see in the world today, I think it’s really important to take it seriously, not be in denial about it, or to be all woo-woo and say, “We’re not interested in it.”
It’s important to take it seriously. But it’s also important to say, “This isn’t the only show in town.” So that’s what I hope for, is I hope that at some other level of reality, all these species still exist, and can manifest again, or are manifesting again, perhaps in different worlds and different realities. Because, I think it’s possible there are multiple universes, as well. You know, cosmologists take the idea of multiple universes very seriously. There’s all sorts of theories like, M Theory and so on, which seriously discusses the possibility that there are multiple realities and universes.
Steve Nobel: So, how does someone use the deck? What would they use it for?
Philip Carr-Gomm: Well, there’s a couple of ways you can use it. I mean, one is to gain insight into a particular issue. And I think it’s very important with oracles, not to approach them from the sort of crude, fortune-telling angle. “Tell me what’s going to happen. Tell me what’s going to happen in the future.” But to say, can I have some insight, please, into this issue I’m struggling with?” Or, “Can I have some insight into what I might need for today?”
And then, you pick a card, just tuning in, in that way, to whatever it is you want to tune into, your highest self, your soul, a deity, the Divine, the Great Mystery. And it’s uncanny how, when you do that, how often you seem to pick a card that gives you some really helpful piece of advice, or direction. So, that’s one way.
And then, in a way, a broader version of the same thing, is to do a spread, or a reading, which people will be familiar with from tarot decks. And so, in the oracle, we have various spreads that you can do, from very simple ones, three cards through to nine cards, and so on, where you look at an issue from a number of different angles. You get a number of pieces of advice, that hopefully kind of come together and help you in some way.
Steve Nobel: So, I’m holding in my hands the beautiful illustration, this stag on the cover of this box, with a book, illustrated book and 33 sacred animal cards. So, Philip, thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Philip Carr-Gomm: It’s a pleasure. It’s a pleasure.
OWN THE DRUID ANIMAL ORACLE
► Illustrated Book and Cards
►Just the deck
Use the ISBN numbers to order from all good Book Shops!
Interviewer Steve Nobel is a book mentor, coach, an author of five books, and an online publisher.
Eddison Books is a book packager and publisher based in London. Their specialist topics are books in Mind, Body, Soul; Personal Development; Health; and Parenting.
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