Go back twenty years and more, and the challenges for new Pagans and Druids were very different. There weren’t many books about Paganism, and if you didn’t know titles and authors, you’d have trouble tracking them down. Your local library wouldn’t carry them, most likely. Pagans of decades past were more cautious by far – there were no laws to protect us and a Pagan could lose their job for their faith. Back before the internet, your local moot, grove or coven would be considerably harder to locate. Finding other Pagans took time and patience, and you had to jump through a lot of hoops before anyone would spot you and take you seriously.
Today’s challenges are perhaps not so obvious. Five minutes with a search engine will give you information that would once have required years of patient hunting, asking and waiting. Most Pagans are ‘out’ and you can find their webpages. However, you may decide that social media is enough, and not make it to a physical moot. Useful if you live miles away from others, but potentially also a trap, because you may not get round to in-person Paganism, and that’s a loss.
The internet is a big place full of a lot of information, much of it contradictory. Druidry is wide, and deeper in some places than others. The people who get online and shout the most often know the least. As an example, there was a person who rolled in here and on message boards, with the email address of ‘seniordruid@’ and started making a lot of noise – much of it rude and self important. It took five minutes to discover that said person had no knowledge base – perhaps in world of warcraft they were a senior Druid, but not out here in the real world. I confess I was neither kind nor gentle – overconfident pedlars of misinformation are too much of a liability to leave unchecked. But there’s a lot of them out there.
Would-be Druids of the 20th century largely had to contend with shortages of information and slow starts. 21st century would-be Druids have the opposite problem – too much information, too many options and possibilities. The challenge for the modern seeker, is to work through the mounds of information and the vast amount of noise to try and figure out what makes sense to them. You start knowing little or nothing, guided by a gut feeling or a yearning. Telling what is worth your while, and what has no value to you, is not easy. The old rites of passage were simpler, in that you knew when you’d found your way in. These days, ‘in’ is quick, but often devoid of meaning. Finding the needles of what you need to know in the great internet haystack is a sizeable challenge.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember, and the thought most easily lost in the noise, is this: The internet is not your Druidry. You can learn here and you can connect with people – and that’s all to the good, but this is not where Druidry lives. Druidry is about the earth you stand on and the air you breathe, it is tribe and wilderness meeting. You might be able to talk and learn about it here, but you can’t do it here. However valuable the things you learn online, you have to take them out into your life and apply them in some way.