They’re at it again you know, those other Druids. Doing it wrong. Worshipping the wrong Gods, in the wrong ways, for the wrong reasons. Some of them aren’t even worshipping Gods at all. They aren’t wearing the right clothes, dammit, and as for the labels they’ve given themselves… pure nonsense. You know who they are. They are the Druids who are not like us and we must forever be righteously indignant about them and make snarky remarks via social media, because we are much more authentic and that’s clearly the way to go.
Most of us modern folk have grown up in a culture that is steeped in the influences of monotheism. We carry that influence with us, often unconsciously. One of the most insidious messages in monotheism is this notion of one true way. All fundamentalist activity is underpinned by a belief in having a monopoly on truth. You will hear the same kinds of assertions from science, commerce, government… the language of one true way is everywhere and we are letting it into Druidry, to our detriment.
Nature is plural. There are many ways of being alive (reptiles, mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, plants, fungi, amoebas….) There are several ways of reproducing (sexually and asexually) many models for having offspring, (from abandonment to one on one nurturing.) Diets vary, lifestyles, ways of existing. Nature is rife with diversity and difference. We Pagans keep trying to claim nature as our sacred book, and then, as people so often do with sacred books, are only quoting the bits we like and ignoring the rest. We owe ourselves more than this.
We have a binary right/wrong logic that we have inherited from our monotheisticaly underpinned culture. There is a right answer, the one true way, and everything else is wrong. Is a dolphin wrong and a shark right? How about emus and penguins, are they wrong? Nature doesn’t give us these binary answers. We get ‘right for this niche’, ‘right for this environment’ ‘right for being a dolphin’. There are many ways. The existence of sharks does not in any way invalidate the existence of dolphins or prove that dolphins are wrong.
In much the same way, the existence of those other Druids who do it some other way is not a challenge to how we are doing it. There is no reason to assume that one way is more or less right than the other. What is right for them may not work for us, because we are different people in a different place. Perhaps they are ferns and we are cacti. We would not thrive in the same environment. We have different needs.
Difference and diversity are good – nature tells us so. Diversity ensures that something will survive. Difference creates more niches in which life can exist. Homogeny leads to extinctions. The reason elms died out nearly in the UK may have had a lot to do with them being far too genetically similar to have any scope for resisting the Dutch elm beetle. It is tempting to suggest that Druids may be a lot like trees. Different soils, rainfall, environment…. Different trees thrive in different places. Alders might like getting their roots in streams and marshes, silver birches do not. What it takes to be a Druid in Australia is not going to be the same as what is involved being a Druid in the American Bible belt, or at Stonehenge, or on an oil rig…
Those other Druids are probably fine. If they are happy, they just aren’t my problem, or yours, and if they try to convert you, it is as easy to walk away from them as it is the Jehovah’s Witness on the doorstep. We’re all good. We are all proper Druids. We are all doing it right. We are better off investing time and energy in our own work than getting grumpy about what those other Druids dared to say now, or what they called us, or what they did wrong with that initiation, or whatever it is. I am a beechtree from the side of a hill. You are a rowan on a mountain top. The guy next to you is a Joshua tree. Some Druids are redwoods and some are tiny new saplings, some are deciduous and others are green all year. Some have fruits and some have seeds, some are more pretty than others. Some even have faces.