In modern Druidry, inspiration is sacred. To the best of my knowledge, this is one of the things that separates Druidry from other modern pagan paths and so might be less familiar to non-druid readers. After the ‘why does television matter?’ question, I feel this is an issue I need to explore properly.
The history of how inspiration came to be central to modern Druidry is murky, and I could spend a whole blog on it to little useful effect. The Awen is the name we give to the flows of inspiration. The three lines /I\ of the awen symbol (which often have three dots over them) represent the awen. For many of us, these are the three drops of inspiration from the cauldron of Cerridwen. The Taliesin story is a key one for modern Druids – if it’s not familiar the gist is that a young boy is employed to watch over a magic potion meant to impart wisdom to Cerridwen’s son. Three drops spring out of the potion, scalding the boy’s thumb, he gets all the wisdom, there’s an epic shape shifting chase at the end of which he is eaten, and reborn from Cerridwen as the poet Taliesin.
Talking about sacred inspiration suggests something that happens in ritual, deep in meditation or as a consequence of years of bardic training. It’s easy to perceive magical inspiration as distant and unobtainable. However, that’s not how modern Druids see things. All inspiration is sacred. The experience of being inspired, of the fire in the head, is pure magic. When we make our bardic oaths, we swear to use our inspiration for the good of our communities, and the land.
Now, the vast majority of folk who work in creative industries are not bards, have made no such oaths and probably don’t see creativity as either magical or spiritual. Consequently, we have ‘industries’. With my other hats on, I have a fair amount of contact with ‘creative industries’. In these, books and albums are products, creators are producers and everyone is expected to do their market research and keep an eye on trends, and work with an eye to being sellable.
The majority of modern entertainment in all mediums, was not designed to be soulful. It’s meant to be catchy, or a page turner. It is a product for you to buy and part of an industry that aims to make a profit. Creative industries play safe and often stifle creativity and originality as a consequence. Everything we buy has been designed, invented, created by people. Everything we buy has the potential to be a thing of beauty as well as utility. There is nothing we might own that could not be made with love and offered as an exquisite and unique creation. However, our society likes to pile it high, sell it cheap and not care about it too much. That’s also a long way from being a green ethos.
If you see inspiration as sacred, beauty as essential and soulfulness as a requirement in all things, then cheap plastic entertainment, like cheap, plastic disposable toys becomes repellent. For me, prizing inspiration and deeply in love with the awen, banal low brow entertainment of any sort is distressing. It is, quite literally, a violation of something I hold sacred.
I know we can do better, as a culture. The arts, crafts, and bardic skills in pagan communities are astounding. I’ve been watching the rise to international repute of Damh the bard, whose work is lively, inspiring, soulful, catchy, great to dance to, and lots of fun. He’s out there doing it, and lots of people love him. He’s about as far from shiny plastic pop as a person can get. There are others following behind him, a rising tide of pagan musicians. On the poetry side there’s the radical green agenda of Awen press and folks like Kevan Manwaring, who fill me with hope. I could go on about crafters and skilled, inspirational people doing magical things.
The mainstream still thinks it wants cheap, mass produced, anonymous, ugly trash; the buying and disposal of which continually harms our planet. There are other ways, but converting people is a slow process and quiet revolutions take time. Entertainment is a pagan issue, a soul issue, a green issue, it’s part of our relationships across communities and our relationship with the planet. It is how we express our spiritual selves, or squash that down and bury it under a ton of shiny insipid trash.