Most people who come to Druidry will start out making no claims about themselves. Recognising that ‘Druid’ is a weighty word implying a lot of things about your role, knowledge and how you are seen by others, new-to-Druidry folk tend to talk about themselves as being students of Druidry, on the Druid path and the like. At some point, a transition will happen from student of Druidry to Druid. Where and when it falls will vary, but there’s often an external trigger. Completing a course can feel like qualification. Leading your first ritual, or Grove, being asked to act as celebrant or to teach something to someone else are also points of transition. Once people ask you to do the job, they will use the ‘Druid’ title in regards to you, and you may as well get used to it!
Many routes to Druidry are self determining. Even in a structured course like OBOD, the responsibility clearly lies with the student, and as they come into their own power there will be a smooth transition from student to practitioner, most often. Where the difficulty often comes is around more personal teaching, where the student submits to the authority of a teacher. That creates a very particular dynamic. It is all too easy for the student to decide their teacher is the all knowing Guru, and refuse to move on from that into responsibility for their own spiritual lives. It is equally easy for the teacher to fall into the ego trap of feeling important because they have all these students following them around being terribly impressed by them, and want to maintain that.
When this happens, the students are not allowed to cross the threshold into their own Druid status. Or won’t let themselves. To move on they will have to break with the teacher – something I’ve seen happen repeatedly. As often as not, this process breaks the student and they retreat from what they were doing. It doesn’t do the teacher much good either, leaving a legacy of wounded feelings that doesn’t make it easier to let future students go. At some point, you have to recognise that even though there are always more things you could teach them, they are ready to go it alone.
How does a teacher avoid this? Not setting yourself up as an authority figure in the first place helps. Avoiding terms that imply power over, or submission to, may help. That way there’s less to break at the end. Don’t teach alone, and if you can, teach with someone whose outlook is different, to avoid dogma and create more space for the student to find their own version of Druidry. If you can’t do that, there are plenty of books now, so you can expose proto-Druids to other perspectives and make it clear you aren’t an absolute authority. If the student is drawn in a direction that is not what you teach, let them go. Don’t make yourself responsible for their spiritual journey. Ideally as teachers we provide tools and ideas from which other people can find out how they want to do things. If we try too hard to make students too much like ourselves we limit them, and take from them the scope to be themselves. If you are taking a formal teacher-student role, have a strategy for how you are going to release them into the wild at the end.
As a student, I would say as a rule the more devotion, acceptance, submission and passivity a teacher asks for (in any context, not just Druidry) the more reason there is to move on. A good teacher will help you be the best you can be, rather than wanting to align you with their own message.
I will always be a student, because there is always more to learn. As a student I have come to value most the fellow travellers who share their experiences without trying to hold authority over me. Where I mentor, I offer myself on those terms as well. One of the things I especially value about OBOD is the emphasis on the responsibility of the student, and the culture of being people sharing a journey. In such company, the transition to self-identifying as a Druid is powerful, but not painful.