Christine, Wondering

Random Musings of a Human Becoming

Friday, October 21, 2011


Awen (noun): poetic inspiration. From the Indo-European root *-uel, meaning 'to blow'.

I love the concept of awen. A wind blowing through your soul, bringing inspiration in its wake. I've only recently discovered the term, in reading about modern Druidic tradition amongst many other explorations of pagan paths. It immediately spoke to me, like few other concepts in any tradition have ever done. I know that feeling intimately, and seeking it forms a big part of my own search for a spiritual identity. For me, without spirituality there is no awen, and without awen there is no spirituality. The sense of connectedness and transcendence is something I have sought since I was young.

Music has always been one of my sources of awen. When listening I find it in music of all genres, from classical to new age to Enya to ordinary pop/rock ("Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel and "Steer" by Missy Higgins are perfect examples). I also find moments of it when singing or playing an instrument in a group - those moments of transcendence when the ensemble combines perfectly and the music itself seems to come to life. It's one of the major reasons why I still love Anglican church services - there is a magic in massed voices that defies artificial boundaries between faiths.

The natural world, and its weather and the turning of its seasons, has always been my biggest source of awen, and it is what led me to paganism. Red berries against a blue sky, sunlight across the plains, a crayfish scuttling under a riverbank, the wind in my hair, mist rolling up a valley, thunder on a hot night, the first frost of autumn... when I am out there in the natural world, awen is everywhere.

Of course, the man-made world is not without awen either. Buildings that are old or odd or quirky. Artworks I like for no better reason than that they speak to my soul. (Here is one - I have seen the original in the Tate and was captivated). Crafts that are nifty or cute. An uplifting book scene or a really clever joke. When I open myself to it, awen is everywhere.

My desire to write fiction has been driven by childhood experiences of awen. It was lacking in my real life - we were not a religious family - and my main sources of it, then as now, were music, nature and stories. My formative years were shaped by books and stories told in electronic media that blew into my soul, inspiring me to act them out, extemporise, adapt and retell over and over again out in the half-acre scrap of garden and bushland that was my childhood temple. All of the books I've tried to write and the stories I've tried to tell have contained elements of this raw need to channel, create, inspire and share the sensation of awen.

Age 9, glowing with inspiration
 I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as I try yet again to put words on paper, or on screen as it is these days (and perhaps that's part of the problem). The wind of inspiration blows into me, and I come alive with the thought of the story I have to tell. I envisage it whole in my head, see it, feel it, live it out in little scenes in my mind, but when the words reach the page they seem to lose their sparkle. How do I maintain that sense of wonder, and the fierce spirit of inspiration? How do I keep the fire of awen burning for the weeks, months and years it takes to craft a novel? How do you keep your spirit glowing with purpose when you're burdened with money worries, or the toddler is being irrational, or when the housework never seems to be finished? How do you teach your heart to be open to awen every moment of every day? Not just for novel writing, but for teaching, and cooking, and keeping house, and nurturing my loved ones, and hoping and believing and growing?

What are your sources for awen (or whatever you would choose to call it)? What reminds you that it's good to be alive, or feeds your creative fires? Where do you get your inspiration?


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