Continuing then, with the story of what underpinned writing Druidry and the Ancestors. It was one of those serendipity things, that not long after reading Ronald Hutton’s Blood and Mistletoe, I was sent some very relevant review books. Graeme K Talboys’ Way of the Druid, and The Druid Way made easy. I review quite a lot of Pagan and Druid writing for The Druid Network.
In many ways, the larger, more detailed Way of the Druid is the perfect companion to Blood and Mistletoe. Where Ronald Hutton carefully deconstructs certainty, Graeme Talboys shows the means by which something of Druidry might have survived. We’re in the realms of interpretation here, and he never creates a false impression of certainty, which I like. After the necessary doubts Blood and Mistletoe creates, Way of the Druid offers possibilities, potential, and hope.
It also made me realise a thing, and that thing turned out to be critically important.
All of history as a subject, is guesswork, story making, looking for plausible explanations. There is, as Ronald Hutton makes clear, precious little certainty. What I learned from Graeme was that I wanted to believe in the literal and dependable truth of every word he’d written. If I do that, and I carry forward in my own work, inspired by those words and by a possible path, what happens?
All we can ever hope to be, is inspired by the idea of something. Hard, solid truth is never going to be available to us, because other interpretations are also always available. Inspiration is more dependable. Which matters most, the facts, or what we do with them? Well, in terms of life lived in the present, and the future we choose to create, what we think about the past will have at least as much influence as what actually happened. What we do with history, how we use it, what we make out of it, is far more important in terms of our own, individual lives, than anything else. For some, that will manifest very precisely as a quest for truth and accuracy. For some the inspiration of the story will carry more weight. We use and subvert our own and other people’s histories in just the same way that we use and subvert other things in order to make sense of our lives, justify our actions, and craft our futures.
I figure, if I’m going to do it, I may as well do it consciously and deliberately. I may as well knowingly pick the stories and ideas I find most powerful and inspiring and work with those. I want Graeme’s vision of ancient Druids and Druid survival to be true. I have no way of knowing whether it is. I made a conscious choice to take those ideas and run with them, as though they were true. In the same way, others take inspiration from myths, from modern fairy tales like Lord of the Rings, and then there’s the glorious creative, chaotic Steampunk scene which is all about taking inspiration and having a history story that is quite deliberately not history. It’s what we want history to have been, and we have the option to make the future out of that retro-aspiration.
I have huge respect for Graeme’s work and he’s been a source of considerable inspiration to me. Not least, he made me realise that the best thing I can do is choose my story and run with it. I’ll keep following the quest for truth alongside it though, inspired by the greatest Druidic fraud, Iolo Morganwg, who claimed ‘the truth against the world’ as his motto. There is however, more than one kind of truth. Sometimes it is the soul truth, the heart truth of a story that really matters, not the technical accuracy. I think that’s why so many people find things like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings affect them so profoundly. Heart truth matters.
Out of the tension between known history, and the history we might want, came Druidry and the Ancestors. And, for added strangeness, it turns out that Graeme and I have ancestral connections, our people were close neighbours in the past! Sometimes, it’s a very small world.