Turning the Wheel
seasonal Britain on two wheels
'Inspiring stuff' Phil Rickman
From a 40th birthday party in Bath to Padstow May Day, the Lammas Games at Avebury to Cheese Rolling
on a hillside in Gloucestershire ... the eccentric, charming, obscure and dangerous. Festive Britain celebrates the turning of the wheel!
On two wheels and 900cc across Britain, Bard on a Bike Kevan Manwaring endeavours to search out the places and people who mark the seasons and cycles in their own special way - in rituals, ceremonies and festivals both private and public, large and intimate, ancient and modern. Along the way he experiences and relate moments of sacred time found in the unlikeliest of places and circumstances, showing how ‘sacred time’ is a state of mind that can be experienced not only at sacred sites, but in the everyday, in the familiar. A
collection of reflections about being fully alive in the Twenty First century and all that means, as much a
modern travelogue, Turning the Wheel is a wise and witty account of a leather-clad time-traveller.
Published by O Books November 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84694-766-7 £15.99
To order: http://www.o-books.com/home
Review of Turning the Wheel
Reviewer Nimue Brown
Turning the Wheel is, on the surface simply a travel book featuring places you can go to in the UK where interesting seasonal events take place. However, there is a vast amount more going on. This is such a layered, complex piece of writing that I’m tempted to say ‘just read it’. Any attempt to break it down for review will inevitably do it a disservice.
The seasonal celebration aspect is very much the core of the narrative thread. We follow Kevan through his fortieth year as he roams the countryside in search of different ways of celebrating. The focus tends towards traditional gatherings, or at least revivals, but has plenty of newer traditions thrown in for good measure. Rather than a dry account of who does what when, this is a personal, individual perspective of specific events in 2010. That makes it far more readable than some kind of ‘where to go’ book.
How you relate to Kevan’s interpretation of events will depend on your own tastes. If you like things to be done to the letter of the tradition, following a tight script, then you may not get along with his descriptions. However if, like me, you are more into living tradition, this is great reading. I like my traditions vibrant and heartfelt and care far more for that than exactly how old they are and whether anyone made bits up. All human activity derives from making bits up, and celebrating this kind of creativity is, from my perspective, wonderful.
Kevan is one of the few (possibly the only) modern bard writing books about what it means to be a bard today. This draws me to his work, and I feel his contribution is very important for anyone on a bard path. While the focus of this book is not being a creative person, what you do get is an ongoing expression of how a creative person interacts with, and responds to their own experience. It won’t tell you how to be a bard, but there is, if you will excuse the pun, a roadmap here for developing your own bardic life. For anyone stepping away from conventional, banal ways of doing, just reading about someone else’s adventures is a source of courage and inspiration. Living unconventionally is hard work, and reading this book I felt a lot of gratitude for the sense of connection it gave me. The reminders that there are a lot of other people out there following the way of awen, following their dreams and their muses, and not being dictated to by the mainstream materialist, commercialist souless pap. There is also a great deal of thought provoking comment as Kevan reflects on the meanings of experiences so for anyone with a philosophical leaning, there’s some good material for pondering here.
When it comes to druid issues, there’s a rather delicious complexity. Kevan talks with considerable disdain of the overdressed, inebriated, media obsessed wing of druidry. The folk who happily turn up 2 hours late, pose for the cameras and have little capacity for reasoned thinking. The tragedy for me, is that this visible, self promoting end of the druid community has clearly formed Kevan’s opinion of who we are and what we do, so much that he’s writing about us in those terms. Everything I read about the author’s attitude to spirit, creativity and celebration resonates with me. I recognise him as being, from my perspective, wholly druidic and I can see why, from his perspective, he might not be. It raises some big questions for me about representations and perceptions of druidry in the wider world. I can’t say it was wholly comfortable to read, but this is perhaps a wakeup call that many of us could do with.
I was conscious, reading Turning the Wheel that the author clearly wasn’t worried about offending people. Bards of old were supposed to satirise the foolish and inept, after all. There’s also a remarkable degree of emotional honesty in other regards too – a real baring of the soul. To be human is not always to be cast in the best possible light. Reading the book has made me rethink the way I represent myself, and how I represent my community. There’s a challenge to take up here, for anyone who cares to – to go further, do more, offer up the warts as well as the shiny bits.
I have no doubt that this book is going to affect every reader differently. Depending on belief and experience, different moments will chime, or jar – and both are productive experiences. We shouldn’t be afraid to be shaken up once in a while. I feel personally that I have been much enriched by reading Turning the Wheel, and will keep it to re-read. I recommend it absolutely, but it is not a sop to the collective druid ego!
The Druid Network