Becoming a Druid is not an event. Granted, rites of initiation can feel like dramatic shifts from one stage to the next, but they are just focal moments in a process. I think western culture tends towards a far too tidy and limited perception of existence, a simpling of experience into small moments of cause and effect. Pass and fail. Pass your driving test once and you are a driver. The modern qualifications system tends us towards a perception of doing some work, cramming some facts into the head, churning them out in an exam and then going forth into the world, rubber stamped as being a thing. Many professions call for ongoing study, but it’s clear by then that you have become the title.
We don’t rubber stamp Druids. You can get certificates for having completed a course, but they convey no authority. There’s no exam for archdruidry, no test to pass before you start a grove. Yet at the same time, set forth to run a grove or be an archdruid, and testing experiences will come your way. Only, there will be no one on the side-lines keeping score. No one will give you marks out of ten, a medal, or a promotion. We get used to systems that grade and evaluate us, pass or fail, that judge us based on the A or D grade achieved in a few hours in a stuffy room, armed only with a pen.
One of the things that exhausts volunteers is that absence of feedback. Similar things happen when you parent; another process which you enter unqualified. No one gives you marks out of ten for parenting. There are courses, but absolutely no promotion option. We’re so used to ‘personal progress’ equating to ratings and pay rises, that living without feedback and the score card is often demoralising. Progress becomes a bank balance, a bigger house, more disposable income. Progress is a promotion, a bigger office, more status. We measure it from the outside, in terms of what other people can see.
When people find they want a spiritual life, or to offer service as a volunteer, or to parent, the baggage from mainstream life can be a real handicap. No end of term report cards here. No grades. Nothing to say ‘this is what I am worth’. No scope for rating your skill as a Druid based on how much you earned doing it this week. Most of us who Druid professionally are not making much money. The absence of external markers, the absence of information about progress and the worth of your work, pushes some people away. Getting over that challenge is hard.
Becoming a Druid is something you will be doing every day for as long as it is your intention to be a Druid. Not to be rubber stamped as worthy, not to pass a test, not even to get a really shiny afterlife. The only reason to try and become a Druid, is that you want, heart and soul, to be a Druid. The only thing you can do with that, is spend each day working with what you have, to be a Druid. It never ends. There is no point of success or making the grade. There is no secret order of hidden masters who will turn up on your doorstep one morning with a golden sickle and a nicely framed certificate.
What this means is that we have to trust ourselves. We have to look at things in terms of real, innate worth, not market value, not buying power or social influence, or any of those other normal ways of assessing what we do. Apply normal values to meditation under a tree, and you’ll get a headache, at best. What is of real value? What really matters? Becoming a Druid is becoming someone who asks a lot of questions, who challenges conventional thinking and experiments with new ways of thinking, seeing, feeling, experiencing. Rejecting the world and embracing it all at once.