By the time I started the OBOD druid grade, I’d already been involved with running a grove and several meditation circles. It would have been more useful to do this the other way round, but that’s life. When I first landed in the druid grade, it felt like a huge relief after the rigours of ovate studies. Then I started looking around for the next challenge, and didn’t really find it. I know the druid course has changed recently, sounding like it goes deeper and further, so my observations are thoroughly out of date!
The affirmation I found in the druid grade echoes my experience of first coming in as a bard. It was a warm, reassuring sort of experience, and this was undoubtedly a good thing. But at the same time, where was the next testing, stretching challenge going to come from? I’d got into the habit of being a student again, and remembered that I liked it. I didn’t want to stop.
No matter how much revision the druid grade has undergone, it will still be a finite thing. This is very important, and is an issue that transcends any individual course or mentor. You get to the end. There is nothing more they can teach you. This does not mean there is nothing more to learn.
I think the most important thing the druid grade gave me was the sense that I could strike out on my own. I’d spent the best part of four years on the three grades, I’d been tested. Wiser and more experienced folk had looked me over and found me acceptable. I’d done everything in the book. At the end, there was recognition in the form of a certificate, and that felt rather good too. It felt like permission. After all the setbacks and put downs and crap that had got me to OBOD’s door, I’d come through and completed the course. I felt proud of the achievement. I knew that I was perfectly capable of striking out on my own and learning for myself. I also knew that I always had been, that I had been misguided by others for whatever reasons, but that my judgement and inclinations were fine from the start.
I think the very best thing any teacher or course can do for the student is get them to the point where said course, or teacher, are no longer needed.
Time to leave the often walked path through the Druid Forest. I eyed up a number of other clearly marked paths, especially the ADF courses, but didn’t go for it. With no plan, map or sense of direction, I ambled off into the undergrowth to see what would happen. Life brought all manner of things to test my sense of self and druidry to breaking point.
When I finished the OBOD grades, I had an awen tattooed onto my arm – a rite of passage I felt I had earned.
Most of the time I have no idea where I am, but there are plenty of fellow travellers who stop to exchange experiences of the journey. I learned, finishing the druid grade, that it’s not a journey to anywhere specific. There are no prizes for getting further than others or going faster. No one is keeping score. It’s very different from school-based learning. And at the end of the course there was no sense of being finished and ready to move on. In that regard it reminds me a bit of Tai Chi. An expert who has mastered the series of moves for Tai Chi goes back to the beginning and learns them again, doing more, understanding more, and knowing that there are infinite cycles of understanding and experiencing.
Ends are always beginnings. The more you know, the more doors open to things you do not know. And then all the questions about what are we knowing this for, what are we seeking to understand, kicks off a new cycle of exploration.