Yesterday I heard from Moon Books that my new title, Druidry and the Ancestors, has a home with them. I am delighted, and feeling very inspired with the work I’m now doing on my third Druidry book (more of that another day). I thought this would be a good day to say a bit more about what I’ve been doing, and why.
It all started when I read Ronald Hutton’s ‘Blood and Mistletoe’ last year. It’s a book every druid should read. It is not comfortable, making clear the many uncertainties in what we ‘know’ about our ancient pagan ancestors, and the sheer embarrassment figures like Iolo Morganwg inspire. Dealing with our more recent Druid ancestors, is a challenge we need to step up to. Out of ambition, imagination, possible insanity, they crafted the roots of our modern practice, and many of us repeat their words without knowing what they are and where they came from. I got to the end of the book and felt an overwhelming urge to try and respond to it in some way.
In the last few years I’ve been living in a land that is full of family history for me, I even spent six months in a cottage where, including myself and my son, 7 out of the last 8 generations of my family have lived. That was a profound experience, bringing me closer to my blood ancestors. What I thought I was going to do, was write a book all about my personal experience of ancestry, recent and historical, and talk about my personal reactions to Hutton’s work.
When I’m writing non-fiction, the extent of my planning is to get down my chapter headings and a few key words as to what content I should cover. In fiction I’m a ‘panster’ working to too tight a plan in either form makes me miserable. The frequent consequence of this is that projects change as I work on them, and what I have at the end is not what I envisaged at the beginning. I got to the end of the first draft of Druidry and the Ancestors late last year, and realised I had accidentally written a history book. This, frankly, was a bit of a shock. It resulted in me doing a lot of things the wrong way round, because I then needed to do some research to fill the gaps in my knowledge and deepen my understanding. Cries for book recommendations ensued. I read a lot more pagan stuff, explored the work of Honouring the Ancient Dead, looked at laws around the dead, treatment of bones, repatriation of indigenous people, radical political history, women’s history, social history, older writers tackling paganism, bad pagan history… the research took over, and anyone so inclined can track bits of where this was going by wading through old blog posts here. It was a learning experience.
The second draft was a much more academic style piece than the first, resulting in a mix of the scholarly-ish and the personal, which may be where I’m going as a writer. I’m not an academic, I’m a mere Bachelor of the Arts, but to write the kind of topics that interest me, I’ve got to wrestle a bit with giants. I don’t want to write impersonal, authoritarian texts, and the only way to avoid that is to keep it personal and individual, I think. It makes for a curious juggling act.
I’ve had one review already, which does suggest some pagans are going to hate what I’ve done. I think I’m ok with that. I believe in what I’ve written, I’ve offered it as my take, not an ultimate truth, if it offends people… so be it. Pagan history is not what we might want it to be, but I think we need to be honest about that.
This time, I’m doing the research first (I think) and I know where I’m going (I think) and probably by the time I’ve written it, I’ll have a whole different book from the one I’m imagining now. Notes from the journey here, as they occur to me, and, thank you all for being part of this. I’ve included an acknowledgment section and it does mention how much I owe to all the people here who feed back. So if that’s you, this is a book that sort of has your name on it. And thank you.