Coming to Druidry, one of the things a person will do (if they are serious) is explore the changes to self that bring thoughts, feelings, and behaviour in line with Druidry itself. This is not unusual – all religions offer us such approaches. If you successfully align thoughts, feelings and actions along spiritual principles, your personality will change. One of the things religion shows us is that personality itself is really quite malleable.
Who we are is a cobbled together amalgam of many things. Our genes have an influence. The family environment we grew up in gave us our baselines for what’s normal and what isn’t. Wider cultures, brought to us through school, television, what happens around us, media, what we are told happens around us, what we read. The things we imagine also help to shape us. From that vast array of input we make vast numbers of tiny unconscious choices about what to believe and reject, what to ignore and uphold. Dissect your personality and most of what you have you can trace back to influences, experiences, choices and the habits of your first household. Personality may be intrinsic to how we think of ourselves, and it tends to inform and filter our whole life experience, but much of it is an unconsidered fabrication.
To varying degrees, religions expose the illusion of self. Buddhism is really explicit about doing this, while monotheism seems much less so, but all offer ways of being that align a person with whatever the faith considers optimal. Submission/ subservience to higher powers and by extension, the priesthood of that higher power is frequently encouraged and a significant part of why atheists find the whole business so objectionable. However, if your identity, personality and relationship with the world is an improvised, unconsidered selection of random accidents, this is perhaps not helpful to you either.
For a person coming to Druidry, there’s not a lot of upfront information about who you are supposed to be. The wise old Druid archetype offers a possible endpoint, but clearly you can’t start there. Nature offers an array of models – to be natural can mean anything you want it to mean. Poisonous toadstools are natural. So is the partner-eating mantis. Human nature allows for all imaginable variations. We talk about being ‘authentic’ but when you arrive at Druidry with a tangled mess of self built up from everywhere you’ve been and your reactions to everything you’ve encountered… ‘authentic’ can be a bit of a mystery.
Simply, there is no behavioural template to magically align your personality with the principles of Druidry. Nothing we do actually works that way, which can be disorientating, demoralising, and frustrating. There are no easy measures to tell if you are doing it ‘right’ even.
“Know thyself” – which is a Greek instruction, not a Celtic one – is probably the most important piece of religious instruction out there. Find out who you are. Make sense of your reactions and feelings. Become the text that you study, and cross reference that to other texts, human; papery and nature based. Find out what makes you tick, and trace those threads of thinking and feeling. It will take years. You may well never manage the whole job, but that’s fine.
As you go through, finding out who you are and how you got to be here, you will find some of those sources please you more than others. On reflection there will be aspects of you that you like and wish to cultivate, and other bits you want to change. You will find virtues, values and vices, strengths and weaknesses, habits that help and habits that hinder. As you work out who you are, you will inevitably start to think about who you want to be, and how to get there. Slowly, over time, this self scrutiny and contemplation will lead you not to some one size fits all Druid model of how to be, but to your own, personal model of how to be the person you want to be. One of the things I have come to think from this journey, is that the person we choose to be is our most authentic self, and the only version of self not dropped on us from outside. The act of choosing makes something far more ‘me’ than the unconscious absorption that is the more usual method.