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An Interview with Kristoffer Hughes

1. Your new book is titled, The Book of Celtic Magic, and has been described as a "complete" book of Celtic magic. What inspired you to write it?

My identity as a Celt is important to me; it expresses my connection to the land, to my ancestors, it is indicative of my love affair with a place, a life-long love affair. My entire spiritual practice is inspired by the mythology and wisdom of Celtica and of the Celtic Cultural Continuum. To this end, I am often asked to speak about that connection and about my expression and practice of Celtic Magic. I figured it was about time that I streamlined those thoughts into a cohesive narrative that, I hope, will not only inspire others, but to offer tools that may colour their own practices. Essentially this is my journey, and whilst I explore many aspects of Celtic magic, it is more or less a biographic account of how I have come to practice Celtic magic. This is my story.

2. Your previous books (including From the Cauldron Born) have focused on Celtic/Welsh traditions; you are also the Chief of the Anglesey Druid Order, a Mount Haemus scholar, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. How do you feel your Welsh ancestry and practices influence your Pagan spirituality?

I live on a small island with a big past, separated by a narrow stretch of turbulent sea from mainland Wales. I live a couple of miles south of the ancient Welsh city of Aberffraw, one of North Wales' ancestral capitals, and also the legendary home of the family of Llyr, the God of the sea. His offspring Bran, Branwen, Manawyddan and their half brothers Nisien and Efnysien are said to have lived here. Branwen herself died of a broken heart on the banks of the river Alaw, a place not far from my current home. When I look south from my bedroom window, over the estuary and the forest (which incidentally is home to the largest Raven colony in Europe), I can clearly view the entire Snowdonia mountain range. At its feet, swimming in the tidal shallows is Caer Aranrhod, a fort and island of the Goddess, also known as Arianrhod. To its east is the ancient seat of Caer Dathyl, the home of the legendary God/King Math. Further still, my work takes me to London, and there atop the White Hill, I sense also the same demigods and gods that I connect to at home. They are written into this landscape. I live in a sacred landscape. Many cultures have called this place home, the Normans and the Saxons, to name but two. My mother tongue, my first language, is Welsh. The Welsh continue to safeguard the old tales and myths of the ancient Briton; we are the Celts of today and within us we contain the memories of the ancient Celts. The Celts themselves never went anywhere; we are still here, thriving and alive.

All this sings of the spirit of the land, and my own internal psychic constitution is deeply attracted to this stream of magic, culture, heritage and expression. It does to countless others throughout the world who sense the pull of Celtica in their blood, in their spirits. Consequently this colours and brings meaning and connection to my Paganism, to my Druidry and magical practice. This is a complete book of Celtic Magic as it captures a window into experience, a window that captures a moment in time. My moment. In that sense it is as complete as it can be, given the limitations of a book, of my magical practice.

3. How do you see The Book of Celtic Magic inspiring those without a Celtic background or ancestry?

There is no telling or explaining why we are drawn to certain things, patterns, flavours, cultures, histories, legends, and the like. Perhaps they are simply indications of the mechanisms of our Psychic constitution. There is no denying that those without a background or ancestry in Celtica can be drawn to this material–how amazing is that! Why that is, I am unsure I have the answer, but that attraction brings such colour to the individual, another layer of magic. However, I believe that the spirit can be drawn to a myriad of cultural flavours, and that ancestry of blood and bone is only one expression of connection. We are complex creatures who operate on several levels. There is magic and mystery there. If something calls to us, then we should respond and see how that adds to this rich experience of living.

What I hope for the most is that those without an ancestral background will glean that it doesn't matter, that what matters is how we connect and how we develop sacred relationships. The fundamental tenet of Druidic practice is to inspire; I am a Druid, and I hope more than anything that my readers will be inspired.

4. Your new book contains a wide number of topics, from an introduction to Celtic rituals to Celtic tree magic. Why did you choose to include the information that you did?

It seemed that my journey thus far had already formulated the flow of the book. When I set out to write this book, I took to my journals; I wanted the book to somehow hint at my own journey, and the conclusions I arrived at (albeit new conclusions are continuously happening—this is a living, growing journey). However, what was also apparent from my conversations with people over the years was that so many people find the entire forest of Celtic mythology and thought rather perplexing. People struggle to make sense of the gods, the children of the gods, and the legend and myths can seem befuddling and immensely nonsensical at times. But like with many things in life, there is a difficult way and an easier way. Sometimes all we need is a key. I have been immersed in this stuff since I was born; it is my life, not just a part of it. It dawned on me that some of my practices and my thoughts may well be of benefit to others who are struggling to make sense of this, particularly if they are very new to the material.

I have a close relationship with the gods of Celtica, and I have oft heard people exclaim that they cannot fathom the gods of the Celtic Cultural Continuum or their attributions. Who are they, what are they, what do they do–if anything? I wanted to address this, but not from the platform of preaching but rather from the stage of experience. This is how I connect to and perceive the gods; perhaps this alone will cause a person to stop and think, "Oh yeah, I get that"—thus initiating their own explorations.

The magical component was also important to me. I am a Druid, and magic is an essential part of that practice. Some Druids may scorn that I essentially cast spells, etc. But I do, and when I look to the lore and legends of my ancestors, so did they. The exploration of Tree Magic has been perhaps the most fulfilling aspect of my personal journey. Trees are incredible teachers, and I hope that my love of trees in a magical and physical sense shines through the pages.

But, perhaps the most important aspect of my book is that none of it, not a single exercise, practice, or thought has been thrown in there for the sake of padding out a few pages. Every Englyn, spell, magical ritual, or ceremony has been practiced, by either me alone or within the structure of a group setting. They are in the book because they work, and also because they are a part of my journey, and in that manner they are authentic. I hope that that sense of authenticity comes through the expression of dry ink on paper. I may well be criticized by some that these cannot be Celtic, for we do not necessarily know what they did or how they did it. In that respect I would beg to differ; I am a Celt, and these are my practices. They are authentic in the sense that they have integrity and have the added energetic value of having been worked with by several individuals and groups.

5. You have another new book, The Journey into Spirit, being published next month. This book explores death and dying from a Pagan perspective, and draws on your daily work in a morgue (we're really excited for that book, too!). How did you ever handle writing two such different books at once?

The books arise from a different well of expression and connection within me, although there is a point where they bleed one into the other. Neither exists within a vacuum as such. My spiritual life is influenced by more than just my culture, but also by the manner in which I perceive the world and the greatest mystery of them all: death. It can be said that religions and spiritual traditions arise to makes sense of life, and to bring meaning to the final journey as we leave this life. My work as a death services professional and bereavement officer at Morgues throughout the United Kingdom has deeply affected the manner by which I connect to the high mysteries of life, the BIG questions. It is this, within the context of my spiritual practice, that I explore in The Journey into Spirit.

Whilst it may appear that I may have written these two books at the same time, the reality is that I didn't. The Journey into Spirit took me a long time to write; it has been a continuously developing thing. It was a painful book to write, and there were times where I had to stop, lest I struggle to tap at the keyboard through tear strained eyes. This book, whilst I reiterate my desire to inspire, is also a book of pain and feeling, or grief, loss and high emotion. It was harrowing to write in parts, and may well be harrowing to read.

6. What do you hope readers will take away from The Celtic Book of Magic? How about The Journey into Spirit?

I hope that people will take away a sense of authenticity, that this is something I actually do, and not alone. I head an Order of Druids on the Isle of Anglesey, and many of the practices within The Book of Celtic Magic are utilized within the Order. They are real in that sense. When we connect to spiritual forces by working with them, meditating and visioning with them, we become channels for these forces. When these forces are in actual use they impart their power and energy onto the user. I hope that the reader gets a sense of this and the integrity that lies behind it.

The Journey into Spirit may well be challenging and harrowing, but there is a clear message of hope and brightness in there, too. The pain is necessary. We are feeling animals. When we sense the pain of another, clear channels of empathy are opened, we move from being a tunnel vision rational, logical person to a feeling, sensing person, and this is where the magic happens. Death is never easy, necessary but not easy. I hope this book will instill a sense of hopefulness and also a challenge to rise up and serve our communities, families and friends as they move to meet their own deaths.

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About Kristoffer Hughes

Kristoffer Hughes (Wales) is Chief of the Anglesey Druid Order, a Mount Haemus Scholar, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. He is a teacher, writer, workshop leader, and guest speaker at Pagan conferences, ...

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