Of Graeme and Ancient Druids

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.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “Of Graeme and Ancient Druids

  • Graeme K Talboys

    You can probably see me blushing all the way up in Scotland. One of the things I have always tried to put across is that getting at the facts about the past is vitally important for they are the foundation of what we are and where we hope to go. If our foundation is made of rubbish it will fall apart. If the hearth we travel from and hope to return to is not properly cleaned, set, and fuelled, there will be no fire when we return. Another thing is that facts are like parts of a puzzle that can make many pictures. Some are more plausible than others, but we will never know the ‘true’ picture. Even our ancestors didn’t know the whole or ‘true’ picture. Our path is one in which we forge a personal relationship with the world. That relationship works best when based on integrity, honesty and our best attempt at the truth. It will always be a best attempt, but in my book that is good enough. The final thing is that, in the end, being Druid is not an academic exercise. Because ancestral Druids held Truth to be a central and vital tenet of their view of the world we aim for that, but Truth is much more than facts. Having worked and taught in museums for years I know that after all the facts have been put forward, the interpretations are endless, and they all still pale in comparison with impact that objects and ideas have on people now. I have no idea if my vision of the past is accurate. I try to make it so, but I also know that my view of the past is inextricably linked with my view of the future and the kind of world I believe we should strive for, irrespective of our beliefs or the paths we choose by which to move forward.

  • John Andersen

    These commentaries have left me with an impression expressed by Neil Gaiman in his Sandman series; that being the thought that a god “dies” when there is no one left who believes in and worships them. I think the same when I think on the ancestors and even those who have walked in Druidry’s path before us. As long as we hold those memories, even those memories that are not in razor-sharp focus, we maintain the thread that ties us together.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: