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An Interview with J.J. Middleway (Part Three)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2015/12/15


An interview with J.J. Middleway. He discusses: most moving initiation experience of boys becoming men; most radical transformation observed between 2010-2013 for UK – Boys2Men; important aspects of leadership to him; most spectacular moments in the druid path; most meaningful and inspiring moments in the druid path; and the ethics and values required of druids on their paths.

Keywords: Boys2Men, druid, druidism, ethics, initiation, J.J. Middleway, leadership, values.

An Interview with J.J. Middleway[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes and citation style listing after the interview, respectively.*

14. What experience with initiation for boys becoming men most moved you?

In recounting and replying to these questions, you have inadvertently stirred memories from an unlikely source, and well beyond when I more formally became involved with Boys2Men or similar.

I mentioned earlier about the young man from Chile who had been in prison for murder (As an ‘anti- fascist’ (sic), he had knifed someone who held alternative views, at a parade in Santiago, as I understand and recall. When he appeared ‘on camp’ in region XI of Chile, he proceeded  to hoist a giant ‘Jolly Roger’ skull and crossbones flag above his tent and was carrying a knife. I say ‘knife’ – but given that it was about 18 inches to two feet long it was halfway to a sword.

It fell to me (‘the buck stops here’) to deal with him.  I can’t say I wasn’t in some trepidation at the prospect.    He was wearing a very unusual and, for me, beautiful T -shirt depicting two horses – one white, one black and one upright, the other upside down.  They were framed by a full moon, a quarter moon and a star. After all these years, I can still picture it clearly, as you see.  I made comment on and complimented him on the T-shirt and this may well have ‘saved me’ in some way. We talked a bit about it and then I told him that I would need to take the knife away as it was too dangerous. He was loathe to do so, as you might imagine, but eventually consented when I gave him my personal assurance that I would give it back to him at the end of the expedition. He trusted me for some reason. I said he could fly the Jolly Roger until sunset and then it was to come down.

He was a most unusual fellow; tall and quite gaunt and originally from the region we were in for the expedition; so he knew the landscape and was most adept at reading the landscape and could run full pelt between two steep sloped hillsides – one summit to the other –  just like a gazelle – supremely graceful. I can still picture him – it was unique and quite awesome I can assure you. So he was useful to the expedition for his local knowledge and affinity with the land. Yet there was an unnerving coldness and callousness about him.  I remember him finding and then skinning a large insect with some despotic glee in his eyes.  Scary.

So the weeks passed and the initial phase completed.  Reports came in of how difficult and unpredictable and even fearsome he could be. And also of how strong and powerful and useful he could be.

Then, during the second phase (each of the three phases lasted a month) I found myself up in the wild hills with his group.  I never got to do a full phase, but visited different groups to deal with problems or sort out leadership issues and so on.   I remember, the group had been out all day and there was some problem, which I can’t specifically recall just now, which necessitated getting news back to base camp asap.  I think the radio had broken, so people at camp might fear the worst (this was pre mobile and satellite days).  Anyhow, this guy (I can’t remember his name- let’s call him Luis) reckoned he knew a way back which was much quicker but necessitated going over the edge of the cliff in front of us.  Nobody was prepared to go with him (too dangerous!)  and he wasn’t allowed to go on his own, so somebody had to be with him.  So, after a few seconds and in a rash moment, I piped up “I’ll go with you”.   Everyone’s jaw dropped: After all, not only was I the ‘old man’ – tho still in those days ‘fairly fit’, but I was also the DEL (Deputy Expedition Leader) and was expected to show some sense and example.

Well, in the end, I didn’t go with him; someone else did. It was agreed, and I knew it was necessary, for me to not be reckless, but to stay with the main group and hold things together rather than launching off stupidly.   Yet in that moment when I spoke to Luis, and said I would go with him, I saw something register in his eyes – almost of disbelief.  He knew I meant it.    And in the days and weeks that followed, he mellowed: his attitude changed and he became helpful and a key member of the groups he was in – valued and respected.     He would occasionally turn to me to check something out and I was aware he was continually testing out the degree to which I was prepared to ‘be there for him’.

I’m glad I didn’t end up going with him ‘over the edge’ for another reason:  Rather than being quicker, it took them twice as long as the main party to get back to base and was quite an ordeal, with much more difficult terrain than Luis had predicted.

As the end of the expedition approached, I remember a very powerful and moving conversation with Luis. He told me how his Father had left when he was very young; how he had felt abandoned and neglected and unloved. How angry and bitter he had become and how this had spiraled out of control when he killed somebody.  He told me that something major had shifted for him during this expedition (as it pretty much did for everyone), and how he had somehow opened up to his sensitivity and softer side. He pinpointed the moment of the ‘cliff edge’ as having been the seminal point in this, and how he had learned to trust again. He was far from ‘sorted’ (aren’t we all!) yet something dramatic had come to pass.  He went on to say that it would be his Father coming to meet him and ‘take him home’ afterwards and that it was a huge moment in his life and how grateful he was.  He was in tears as he handed me a present of the T-shirt I had admired at the outset. And I was in tears as I handed him back his large knife. What happened with Luis was some form of initiation – they always vary, and are unique to the individual. I have witnessed a whole host of transformations, but I guess this stands out because it was so dramatic and the first of real note.  And also because I was going through just as powerful and transformative a journey of my own in that time. However, I think what I have related answers the question.

Oh yes, and the reason I can remember the T-shirt so well?  Because it is sitting here on the chair beside me now.  I dug it out to recount this tale. Maybe it won’t surprise you that it has brought tears to my eyes seeing it again.

15. What individual had the most radical transformation in your judgment of professional work from 2010-2013 for UK – Boys2Men?

Myself. (half joking, but there is truth in that)

The fact is, that just about everyone who gets actively involved, experiences dramatic and valuable transformation. That goes for boys and men alike: Those organising and running it gain and learn every bit as much from “the boys” as the participants ever learn from “the men”.

16. You have involvement with The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids for 21 years with 17 as a mentor or tutor.[3],[4],[5],[6],[7] You do not perceive of yourself as an academic, or intellectual, but as slightly unorthodox. Moreover, you see personal value in expression of authenticity, grace, humility, and humor, even in light of a highly busy schedule – which you hold in spite of reduced contact with the world through electronic means of communication. For example, your recent work, in July, 2015, worked in sharing a journey of initiation for young men, where you held the title of ritual elder and took on its concomitant responsibilities.  Or another outing which involved leading a group into sacred singing, which you give the appellation “Enchanting the Void,” or conducting a Handfasting (alternative wedding) in Somerset for a couple from Hong Kong and another in Upper New York State (Hudson), which describes a bountiful life provided by the druid path.[8] What aspects of leadership, such as the aforementioned, mean the most to you?

I think that sums it up pretty well in most respects.   It feels like a very rich harvest these past few years: so much abundance in my life that I need to be mindful of taking too much on (like answering random magazine interview requests like this 🙂 – which I am truly grateful for and only joking when I say that; I find it very valuable – and humbling too as I approach my latter years.    Yes, as Autumn Equinox 2015 now approaches – it will mark 21 years since I first attended a Druid Grove meeting in Bristol.  On that same evening, two other people were attending for the very first time; one Professor Ronald Hutton (perhaps the foremost authority on Paganism in the world) and another – Adrian Rooke – a valiant and vibrant ‘spiritual warrior’.  Both have become dear to my heart and most valued as friends.  We shall meet again together as we have all these years, to mark the ‘wheel of the year’ and the ‘wheel of our lives’.   Each of us has supported and witnessed the other as we have evolved into our respective forms of Druidry and in life.   We have honoured each other’s evolution on this path. Goodness what a journey we have shared.  I know they would echo that. So, deep friendship is one aspect of what this path has brought me; many others too numerous to mention here.

17. What remain the most spectacular moments in the druid path for you?

The remarkable arrival and unfolding of each new day. The Beauty in a rose.

As Hafiz expressed it in the 13th century I think:

“How did the rose ever flower and give to the world of its beauty?

It felt the encouragement of light upon its being”

So, the ‘most spectacular’ for me is to be found within the everyday.

The ordinary becomes the extraordinary.

Einstein put it succinctly and wisely for me:

“There are two ways to live a life: One is to experience everything as a miracle. The other is to experience nothing as being a miracle”

I have paraphrased from memory so it may not be word perfect, but you get the gist of it.   The thing that I would add is that he missed a key part out; ‘we get to choose’.  How phenomenal is that?  Which points to another wonderful Hafiz poem:

“The words I speak, create the home I live in.”

18. What remain the most meaningful and inspiring moments in the druid path for you?

I could list a whole host of experiences and recollections. So I will 🙂

Or at least a few.   I might recollect three days and nights spent inside an ancient, between 2,000 and 4,000-year-old, hollow yew tree in Wales, 18 years ago, as a key part of my journey; a death and rebirth. Without food and water and with just my Druid cloak.  Some might say “’tis madness sir”. Maybe so, but it taught me much; not least that water is the elixir of life. After 72 hours without it, the exquisite ambrosia which is H2O, becomes a magical substance, never to be forgotten. The ancient yew tree is also ‘a magical being’ in my experience.

Or I might celebrate four beautiful children – three girls and one boy – and the remarkable good fortune of an equally beautiful Mother to those children and a fabulously enriching experience of recently becoming a grandparent. Being Father and Husband has been a key part of the unfolding of my Druid path and a prime focus of my life. Supremely challenging and supremely rewarding.

I would also celebrate the friends and lovers who have held and encouraged and inspired me. Particularly in this moment the woman in my life right now.

I might recall visits to the sacred and special Island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland.  Of ‘skinny dipping’ during two separate Novembers (Brrrr!) in the ‘Spring of Eternal Youth’ at the top of Dun I – the only ‘mountain’ (it’s really a big hill) of Iona. And of taking a boat from there to Fingal’s cave on Staffa- a quite Magical place – where I feel my actual Druid initiation took place on one of those visits.

Or perhaps the unfolding of the journey after my time in Patagonia and South America. I recalled above how leading that expedition was the most challenging and demanding experience I had experienced ‘at that time’ i.e. “If I can survive this, then I can survive anything” is how it felt. Yet what happened subsequently was even more challenging.  The breakup of my 30-year marriage shredded me to pieces and shattered my heart. And that in its turn, prepared me for an almost mythical journey of healing and redemption in regard to one of our three daughters – a pilgrimage spanning several years, with spells in Nepal and the next year in India, trying to locate and rescue her from what was, at the time, every parent’s worst nightmare. A life process for which I have invented the word “Humilification” since I don’t think there is word to adequately describe the process of being humbled, often through humiliation, and returned in humility, to the earth (which is where the Hum in our Human name comes from: We are creatures of this earth.) The life process offers us – certainly it has offered me – the opportunity for humilification.  The words Humour, Humus and Humanity are pointers on that journey.

So, unlikely as it might appear as a candidate at first viewing, it is the supreme humbling through humilification which has moulded and made me the man I now am, and thus paradoxically qualifies as being one of ‘the most meaningful and inspiring moments on the Druid path for me.”

Here is the poem I wrote a few years back to sum it all up (it also goes a long way toward telling you where I am now) All things pass – and I know I’ll get over it, however my life feels as blessed and as graced, at every level, such as a simple fool of a man as this, could ever have imagined or wished for.

I have relinquished

I now accept

I am surrendered

Without regret.

I’m blown wide open

I’m stripped quite bare

I stand in silence

Beyond despair.

Reduced to nothing

I have it all.

Forsake illusion

Embrace the fall.

I would also like to honour and bless the five years I spent living alone, in a yurt in the woods, in Oxfordshire England, including two particularly cold winters.  Of connecting deeply and being healed by ‘sleeping upon the earth’ – (metaphorically, since I did at least have sheepskins to lie on 🙂 )

19. What do ethics and value require of druids on their own paths?[9],[10],[11],12]

‘First know thyself; then to that self be true.’ –  A guiding principle of the Western Mystery Tradition.

It is for each of us to find that unique blend which best describes us, and then act accordingly in response.   We may help each other find our own path in that quest; however, to ‘tell’ another ‘this is the truth’ or to point and say ‘this is the way’, are not ‘the druid way’ – at least not as I understand it. To enable another to directly experience their own personal unfolding, then see this embodied in ‘a virtuous way of being’ is the reflection of ethics and value in action I think.

What also comes to mind is one of my favourite Druid Triads (so called because each one always has three lines or component parts):

Hearth as Altar

Work as Worship

Service as Sacrament.

This too has been a welcome guide in relation to ethics and values upon my path.

‘Hearth’ can perhaps be seen as the inner work of lighting and tending the fire of the soul. Though it might equally be seen as an outer activity.

‘Work’ – as has come to be the case for me – which complements and is fully in accord with one’s values and ethics; and therefore based in, and an expression of, love.

And ‘Service’ –  The subjugation and at the same time magnification, of the lesser ego driven self, in service to the greater ‘Self’ – that which furthers and unconditionally aids the needs of others.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Druid; Member, The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids; Celebrant; Healer; Mentor/Elder/Witness, UK – Boys2Men; Ritualist; Druid Mentor, Elder, and Witness.

[2] First publication on December 15, 2015 at

[3] Please see The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (2015). The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. Retrieved from

[4] Please see The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (2015). Druid Beliefs. Retrieved from

[5] Please see The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (n.d.). Ethics & Values in Druidry I. Retrieved from

[6] Please see The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (n.d.). Ethics & Values in Druidry II. Retrieved from

[7] Please see The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (2015). Druid Beliefs. Retrieved from

[8] Please see Middleway, J.J. (2015). Enchanting the Void. Retrieved from

[9] Please see The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (2015). Druid Beliefs. Retrieved from

[10] Please see The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (n.d.). Ethics & Values in Druidry I. Retrieved from

[11] Please see The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (n.d.). Ethics & Values in Druidry II. Retrieved from

[12] Please see The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (n.d.). How Beautiful Are They— Some Thoughts on Ethics in Celtic and European Mythology. Retrieved from


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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