There are a great many folk out there doing druidry and something else. There are, I suspect, a comparable number of people who get really irritated by ‘druidry and’ approaches. The trouble is that most religions have more material to draw on than we do – more books, rituals, more famous practitioners, more wisdom teachings etc. Thousands of years of evolving culture from the distant past to the present day, full of changes but with enough consistency to feel like a tradition. We don’t have that. Granted, we have some things to draw on, but nothing like the quantity of writings, teachings, practices and traditions of any other major faith.
I spend a fair amount of my time reading books from other faiths. I’m currently reading about Shinto, and that book is next to my copy of the Tao Te Ching and a book on Buddhism. But, I’m not a fan of ‘pick and mix’ – that great accusation raised so often against New Age practice. I’m not looking for things I can steal from other people’s religions to fill in where I find gaps in my own.
I’ve always felt that religions deserve to be studied as academic subjects just as much as philosophical positions do. There is a world of difference between studying religion from a position of faith, and studying it from a position of curiosity. But just as the skills of anthropology can, and I think should be pointed back at the culture they originate from, so too the study of religion can be turned round and directed back at our own habits. There are always questions to ask about what we’re doing and why.
Considering the attitudes, core tenets and activities of other faiths gives a basis for comparison. It becomes possible to contemplate more broadly what it is that people want from a religion – any religion. What traits do religions have in common, and where do they differ, and why? What does that tell us about what it means to be human? I keep coming back to ask ‘how does this relate to druidry?’ The answers of course vary dramatically.
Druidry needs the rich diversity of thinking and practice evident in all other significant religions. It needs the breadth of traditions, the variety of ways of doing that go to make a faith dynamic and living. This of course will take time. We may be drawing on something ancient, and something else a few hundred years old, but in some ways we are also very young, very new. I don’t like saying ‘neo’ because most modern religions are a long way from how they were two thousand years ago, so we’re not alone, and do not need singling out. But we are narrow, and small, as yet.
We can learn from other religions without borrowing techniques from them We can learn what it is that people do with religions, and use that to develop what we already have as ‘Druid’ and take it forward. Of course we’re all going to disagree on the shapes, potentials, just like we do over the ‘Druidry and’ options, but every time we do it, we’ll be adding something to the tradition, making it richer, finding out what sticks.
The last thing I think we need is some kind of universal faith of homogenised, easily digestible squidge. Religions should be distinctive and different, offering diverse paths that reflect the different needs of different people. If we let ourselves get too similar, all huddled round the same hymn sheet, we reduce the chances of getting any new ideas, homogeny goes very well with stagnation, dogma and repression. Diversity is much healthier. But, we can learn from each other without turning into universal spiritual squidge.