depositphotos forest glade, Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids.

by Alan

Close your eyes, imagine your grove, what do you see, what do you smell, what do you hear? Would it surprise you to know that there are some people for whom the answer to all those questions is ‘nothing’. This is the ‘condition’ known as Aphantasia, it affects about 4% of the population. Previously known as mind-blindness, the term Aphastasia was only coined in 2015, since when knowledge of it has grown. People with Aphantasia are unable to visualise or form mental images when thinking or imagining.

Obviously such ‘blindness’ is a sliding scale, and varies from reduced vision imagery to total blindness and varying degrees of not being able to imagine smells, sounds, touch or other sensations either. The question is therefore how such people engage with the Gwers of OBOD and other magical systems that rely heavily on conjuring up the inner world in meditation and visualisation?

Well it’s time to come clean – I myself have total aphantasia and am an OBOD Druid, having completed all the Gwers, so it must be possible! Possible yes, but easy no. It was during my studies that I discovered I was ‘aphantasic’, when I close my eyes I see, hear, feel and smell nothing … It is completely black. I do not meet any people or guides in visualisation at all … nothing happens; and in case you are thinking it, no amount of practice, training or rituals to open the inner eye do anything or help at all.

depositphotos forest path, Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids.

This isn’t something I have lost, it is how I have always been, I know no different. Until I undertook the Gwers I wasn’t even aware that I was any different from other people. This is where the problem came, as the Gwers made more suggestions for visualisation I found they began to make less and less sense to me, at first it felt like failure on my part, until it gradually began to dawn on me that perhaps there was something different about my experience, which lead me to discover Aphantasia.

So how did I manage and how can we all help other people like me to make the OBOD journey. The first thing to say is that although I can’t ‘see’ when I imagine, it does not mean that I cannot imagine, in fact I think I have a very active and creative imagination. If you ask me to imagine an apple, I will not see an apple, but I will have the idea of an apple, I will be able to describe it however I want and change the idea of it at will. This is how in the end I approached the Gwers, I told myself stories. I imagined and wrote the stories of what happened in my inner grove and as I did the stories took on a life of their own, these stories then became memories that were as real to me as any other memory, my memories are totally non-visual too! I could also go back and revisit my stories, refine them and change them as I wished … a bit like the old choose your own adventure books! I also found it very helpful to have lots of apparent world things that helped me in the other world, ‘real’ versions of objects we might come across, pictures / drawings of people places etc. I found it helpful to visit woodlands and other sacred places to help me know them.

depositphotos tree branches, Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids.

I share this experience with you, in the hope that it might be helpful to other people whose experience is similar to mine; and also because through awareness we might create understanding. Please be patient with those of us for whom this is our experience of life, maybe occasionally being careful about how things are phrased to take account of us. If you have artistic skills, know how important your work is to those of us who cannot see the inner world in any other way. I have never actually seen my grove, I know exactly what it looks like, but have never seen it!

If anyone needs any advice about Aphantasia, there are several websites out there. I am also happy to be contacted by members of the order who need advice.
depositphotos forest sunbeams, Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids.


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