Consistently, over the past 20 years (right up to last week, in fact), I have received a variety of questions from people --- some about my background, some related to things I have published, or about ventures with which I have been involved. Typically, I have chosen to respond to these questions on a person-by-person basis. However, I have decided that the time has arrived to address these ‘frequently asked questions’ in a single space.
Are you the same person who wrote the book The Mist Filled Path under the name Frank MacEowen?
Did I write The Mist Filled Path? Yes. Am I the “same person” who wrote The Mist Filled Path? Hardly. That was nearly 20 years ago now and a lot has happened since then. Like any author (or one hopes), I have continued to grow and refine my thoughts over the years. Some of the filters of understanding and interpretation through which I processed some of my experiences have shifted over the years, but I still stand by what I've written and feel there is good content therein for people exploring themes around Celtic spirituality, Nature connection, etc.
Are you the same person who wrote the book The School of Soft-Attention under the name Frank LaRue Owen?
Yes. I have penned three books of poetry. All have been published by Homebound Publications. The School of Soft-Attention, The Temple of Warm Harmony, and Stirrup of the Sun & Moon.
Why did you publish some books under the name Frank MacEowen and some books under the name Frank LaRue Owen?
The first thing I ever wrote that appeared in print was an essay entitled “Nemeton: The Common Wound and the Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life” in a book entitled The Druid Renaissance (1996), edited by Philip Carr-Gomm, the then-Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I penned that essay under the name Frank Owen, and it also appeared in the book’s re-issue, The Rebirth of Druidry.
When I began my publishing journey with New World Library, I knew that I was going to be writing about topics that some people would consider “out there”, as in “out on a limb”, so to speak. This included visionary experiences with non-ordinary states of consciousness and experiences with entheogens (the spiritual use of psychoactives), most notably ayahuasca.
At that time, both of my parents were ordained United Methodist ministers. In addition to living under the ever-watchful eyes of the religious authorities of their tradition, I was also well aware (from personal experience and peripheral observation) of the potentially severe and sometimes toxic scrutiny that can come down like a guillotine on a minister by church parishioners. The “high and mighty” sitting in those church pews can sometimes cause great pain if clergy (or their family members) are deemed “not holy enough” in their eyes.
With that experiential understanding, and hoping to mitigate any potential negative blow-back onto my parents surrounding some of the “non-Christian” topics I would write about (keywords: paganism, entheogens, trance states), I elected to adopt a nom de plume, a pen name, under which to write about some of my experiences. To this end, I leaned on ancestral sources to create a pen name that contains an older pronunciation of an old family name.
When I began publishing poetry with Homebound Publications, I decided to use my birth name, Frank LaRue Owen; though, technically, I am a junior.
While I still answer to “Frank”, these days I also go by the name “Hawk”.
I see that you also go by the name “Hawk”. What significance is the hawk to you?
“Hawk” is short for Hawk of the Pines, my poet name. It is a creative moniker that has many layers of meaning for me. It links me energetically, in equal measure, to spiritual influences in my life: philosophical Taoism/hermit-Zen, contemplative druidic ideas, the primordial earth spirituality of my (mostly) Scottish (both Highland and Lowland) and Norse ancestors, the alchemical innerwork of the Jungian path of dreaming, and the general domain of Nature-based contemplative practice and animism.
Some people associate the term ‘hawk’ with ‘war’, as in ‘being hawkish’. That is not my connection or association. Hawk represents my connection to the primordial, to ancestry, to the spirit world, and to the bardic tradition. Hawk is a muse for me and directly related to a visionary experience I had in the natural world that “bridged” the seen and unseen worlds through dreaming. I explore that experience in one of my poems entitled: "Hawk Returning to Pine"
In The Druid Animal Oracle, we are told that Hawk is associated with recollection and cleansing; seeing one’s life in perspective, freeing oneself of unnecessary baggage, and connecting with ancestral roots. An inspired bard was said to possess “bird’s knowledge” and it is well-documented that some primal Druids wore bird feathered cloaks when performing ceremony and divination.
I also associate the spirit of the hawk with my father, whom some people affectionately call “Hawkeye”. I guess you could say, I am a chip off the ol’ Hawk.
What is your ancestral background?
According to my Ancestry DNA genetic test (paternal), I am 51% Scottish, 33% England/Northwestern Europe, 9% Irish, 4% Welsh, and 3% Eastern Europe. According to the National Geographic Genome Project, my 'deep ancestors' hailed from an area around modern-day Ethiopia and Kenya, migrated up through the areas of modern-day Spain (Iberia) and Turkey (Anatolia), up into present-day Scandinavia, and down into Scotland. My mother's ancestry is predominantly Scottish and Danish, with a Colcannon-size serving of Irish.
I stumbled upon some comments about you online. They were critical of you and said that you had instructed authors John and Caitlin Matthews how to lead Native American sweat lodge ceremonies, which they deemed "cultural appropriation".
I am fully aware of the online misinformation campaign to which you speak.
The problem with the internet and social media these days (and Amazon book reviews for that matter) is that anyone can say just about anything about anyone else and there isn’t really a structure or method in place for either a balanced dialogue or, in this case, for an individual to address falsehoods or mischaracterizations that have been made.
While I deeply respect the scholarship and embodied practical work of both Caitlin and John Matthews on the topics of the Western Mystery Traditions and Celtic spirituality, I have never met either of them in person; and, so, naturally, I have never instructed them in anything.
What are your thoughts about people not born in "Celtic lands" writing about "Celtic" themes?
I was born in the United States. Yet, I have written, in part, on themes that fall under the heading of "the Celtic spirit". I have had a number of homeland Irish and Scots tell me (in writing and in person), along with a number of post-Diaspora Irish and Scottish descendants, that they felt a deep sense of healing, validation, and permission to explore their earth-centered spiritual leanings from reading my earlier books. Mission accomplished.
Can people that don't live in Scotland call themselves a "Scot"?
From my perspective, I say that I have Scottish ancestry, that I am a descendant of Highland and Lowland Scots, or a descendant of Ulster-Scots, but I don't say that I am a "Scot". From my way of seeing, the term denotes someone who lives in Scotland or who was born in Scotland and moved away. Technically speaking, I am a descendant of the Scots Diaspora. Mr. Alastair McIntyre, FSA Scot, publisher of Electric Scotland, has some valuable things to say about this topic here: Scots Diaspora
Are you a shaman?
Emphatically, no. A shaman is an indigenous healer of the Evenk and Tungus tribes of Siberia. That said, I have had some unique shaping experiences along the way that involved non-ordinary states of consciousness, but I prefer the term "visionary", as this is a much more expansive term that encompasses a variety of experiences and can include creativity, artistic inspiration, poetic inspiration, deep intuition, active dreaming, and connection to Nature. Think: visionary artist.
How closely related is your poetry to the Celtic bardic traditions?
Related in subject matter (Nature), but unrelated in training, I would have to say. The traditional bards (fili in Ireland, seanchaidh in Scotland, awenyddion in Wales) underwent extensive training, often lasting upward of twelve years, involving vast reservoirs of memorization (350 stories, dozens of poems) and various methods of incubating poems or invoking the flow of creative inspiration, such as fasting, sleeping with stones on their bellies, and more. My spiritual practice consists of hillwalking, dreaming, gardening, and meditating.