By Peace and Love to Stand

We swear, by peace and love to stand, heart to heart and hand in hand. Mark, oh spirits and hear us now, confirming this, our sacred vow.

It’s a popular one for Druid circles, and I confess I find it ever more difficult. In a big Druid gathering, the odds are that I don’t know everyone well. Obviously I want to believe that all the other Druids around me are splendid and lovely people with whom I could easily stand heart to heart in all things… but we know how that goes. It’s a big dedication to make to a bunch of people you don’t know. More so, if you’ve experienced conflict with other Druids and are quite aware of the possibility that people can say this with you and get out the knives for a hearty backstabbing later.

I have spoken those lines in circle with a small number of people who went on to treat me really badly. Every time it comes up now, unless I know the circle, I feel that unease, and even when I do know everyone, the memory of who I have shared those words with in the past makes it uncomfortable.

I’ve stood in circles with people I am not entirely comfortable with. Again, with those big circles at Druid camp, at Avebury and the like, there’s every scope for being in circle with someone who irritates the hell out of me, or I feel uncomfortable with, or have clashed with, or just plain do not much like for some reason. In big community rituals, the choice is to either deal with the lack of peace and love some individuals may evoke, or step away from the community space.

To be part of a community is to deal with the people in that community I find abrasive and challenging. To be part of a ritual swearing to stand in peace and love, with those same people, is not easy. Is it hypocritical to even say those words when you don’t honestly suspect they will be universally upheld? Is it enough to offer them as an aspiration? We’re asking spirits to witness this as a sacred vow… that has implications.

Increasingly for me it goes… We swear by peace and love to stand, as far as is humanly possible, with some right to self-defence in emergencies and trying not to add to any pre-existing feelings of conflict. Heart to heart… because I would be open and honest and give freely of myself, really I would but on the other hand I’m very tired of doing that only to have my heart trampled over carelessly by people who do not give a shit… and hand in hand… well, there is some of that going on just now yes. Mark oh Spirits and hear us now, confirming this our sacred vow, but please don’t be too hard on us when we mess up, because someone will and I’m not sure how good a job I can do of this one.

A mix of spoken word and silent, slightly desperate appeal to the universe.

I’m also aware of the many who have honoured that pledge, heart and hand over many years, and it is a shame that experience of the few has so discoloured this for me that I find it hard these days to share it with the many. But, we keep trying, and hoping and aspiring, because these are good aims, and I’d rather fail while trying, than not try.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. 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

17 responses to “By Peace and Love to Stand

  • Léithin Cluan

    Heh. I don’t like the words, myself – they have a ring of insincere children’s babble – but I say them. Maybe I should think about why I do. (Any idea where they come from? They can’t be as old as Iolo – they don’t read like him.)

  • Nimue Brown

    That faux-archaic ‘Mark, Oh spirits’ has that ring to it, although I think the ‘spirits’ may be a later add, but I am pretty sure this is Iolo again.

  • ladyimbrium

    It sounds a lot like the dual thought process I use every day. I always start out being nice to people but at the same time I’m planning how best to incapacitate them and get away.

    • Sylvia Pearson

      This is a dilemma I face a lot at cohousing where I live. There isn’t a model for community living, we have all got so used to creating a way of life that we think is the right one. Whereas traditional communities grew up together. I get reminded of that quote ‘much that passes as altruism is a disguised love of power’. Was talking with a friend about Mandela, that he started as a tribal chief, so grew up with a model of community rather than the individual. To me it is definitely worth it but it is not easy and happy clappy it is hard work. It’s interesting that festivals are so popular, fulfills our need for community, but before we get into serious and very intense disputes about the best recipe for nut loaf, we all pack up and go home to do it our way. But yes when people share what they each have to give it is a joy and a treasure. Sometimes I wonder if I want results too quickly, building community in the modern world is happening, more and more, we are building frameworks, trying it.

      • Nimue Brown

        Thank you for sharing those insights, that is a really interesting perspective. I’ve not tried living that way (yet!) it must create challenges that are hard to anticipate before you’re actually in there and doing it. Our Pagan tribes aer often so fleeting in natuer we don’t have to deal collectively with the tings that go awry in the way a more permanent tribe would have to.

    • Nimue Brown

      I’m not *always* thinking about how to incapacitate people and get away, although the authoring thing probably has resulted in me spending more time than I should pondering where one might hide the bodies, should it turn out to be necessary…. 🙂

  • Annika (@AnnikaGarratt)

    Did you mean “contempt” rather than “content”?

  • Sylvia Pearson

    And without wanting to sound patronising, well said!

  • Linda

    Thank-you for this post. This is something I have wrestled with myself recently. It’s the “We swear” and “confirming this our sacred vow” part that makes me uncomfortable. As you point out, vows are serious and shouldn’t be spoken lightly, especially with spirits as witness. On the other hand, it’s a nice sentiment and worthy goal to stand heart to heart and hand in hand with our fellow Druids. A revision along the lines of “We hope to stand, etc” and “mark oh Spirit, hear us now forgive us when we fail and let us try again,” (only more poetic) would be nice but it’s the kind of discussion that is difficult to broach within a group without causing hard feelings. Thanks for bringing it up — I like your interim solution.

  • Search terms: is OBOD too Wiccan? | Brigid, Fox, and Buddha

    […] slow reveal as part of the experience, but isn’t closed in the same way. (Druids do also have a vow but this is of quite a different kind.) There are other practical differences – OBOD […]

  • Fredrik Liljegren

    I take those word as regarding the ceremony at hand. In this particular ceremony, I will stand heart to heart. I swear that, and if I feel I cannot hold up my end of that oath, I can leave the ceremony in question.

  • thewaterpath

    I agree that it creates division within oneself. Vows need to be written differently so as to not create that.

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