The call to service is a significant part of the Druid path. Who or what a Druid may serve is a much more personal question. Broadly speaking, land, tribe, gods, nature, ancestors, tradition, spirit and awen would be likely candidates, either in combination or focusing on just the one. How that manifests can be incredibly diverse – serving the land could mean running an organic community allotment. It could mean getting into politics, becoming an activist, planting trees or giving up your car, to suggest a few obvious routes.
Service has to be needed. It’s all too easy to use the idea of service to further our own goals or fuel self-importance. That in itself isn’t entirely a problem – Druidry is not a path of self effacing modesty after all, but if your Druidry gives you a boost in some way, it must also genuinely serve someone else to count as service. The bard as archetype offers a great example here. To be on stage, basking in the adoration of an audience is to get personal benefit from what you do. However, if the audience is inspired and uplifted, if their souls are touched and their hearts healed by what the bard offers, then the bard is serving their community, tradition and the awen and likely a few other things as well.
Service cannot be a flow in one direction only. If you come to give, then something has to nurture you, or you end up drained and defeated, or going mad in other ways. Paths of martyrdom offer their own interesting temptations, and people who are most ostentatiously self-sacrificing can be on the most outrageous of ego trips. Where service is held in a more balanced way, it works better and everyone stays sane.
It is important to look not only at how we serve, but how we are served, and to make sure gratitude flows back where it is needed. The bard on the stage owes greatly to the event organiser, the sound person, the person who taught them to play, the people, stories and landscapes that inspire them. Inspiration, service and gratitude, offering back from what was made, keeps all participants nourished and feeling valued. It keeps people grounded, and also able to give. It means that people whose work is all background get to feel part of the exciting bits. It’s when we start imagining that we are separate and alone, that our service flows purely from us, and people ought to be grateful that a Druid courts problems.
I would, quite simply, be lost without the people who inspire me from day to day. I would be lost without the people who value my work and come back to tell me this so that I understand what I’m doing and why. (Iva broke my heart and fed the fire in my head with this beautiful review of my book, recently) I need the people who give me opportunities to get on stages, sing, run workshops, write books. I need the people who read what I write and ask for more songs. I need the people who get up and do things such that I can go and be in the audience. I need the people who write books and tell stories. And without the people who taught me, this would all be a moot point anyway.
Every act of creativity exists in a context, there are always other hands that you can’t see, making things possible. Where those flows of inspiration are honoured, where love and appreciation flow along the same lines, life is better, and there is more good stuff.