When Nimue invited me to guest-blog on Druid Life about my novel Deep Time, I got cogitating about the points of connection between Druidry and this work of prehistoric fantasy – and also about the influence of my encounters with Druidry upon my values and imagination. The first point of connection that comes to mind is the core theme in Deep Time of the quest for connectedness between human beings and the rest of nature. This is the journey of transformation that my protagonist has to undergo.
The modern Druidic movement in Britain has taken inspiration from traditional cultures in other parts of the world which intimately engage with the life of plants and animals and the framework of seasons and natural elements. A complementary source of inspiration comes from trying to imagine the kind of life experienced in the British Isles in the days when the ancient Druids flourished and in the yet more remote periods preceding them. The further back in prehistory you look, the more intensely did human beings live in awareness of their interconnectedness with the ecology they belonged to. There are positive and negative angles to our imagining of human life in a primeval setting. On the one hand, there’s the delight of sensual immersion in nature, of the constant engagement of body and mind with the living world around one; the vision of earthly paradise or the noble savage. On the other hand, there is hardship, fear, pain, dirt, and an inescapable awareness of the precariousness of life and death.
In Deep Time I’ve played with this tension by presenting my prehistoric lost world as sometimes a terrifying test of survival and other times a fabulous ecotopia all but untouched by human intervention. My protagonist, a zoologist, at first relates to nature and its denizens as objects to be studied and understood. Only through the mediation of the woman with whom he travels does he learn to connect, body and soul, with what’s around him in a spirit of respectful mutual attention. His intimate journey of connection with this woman is one and the same as his journey of connection with the world.
Hand in glove with this theme comes a second, more subtle theme, that will again be familiar to Druids, concerning the limitations of scientific understanding: that our connection with nature is not merely ecological but also spiritual, that nature is sacred and all the toil of conservation and green politics will come to nothing without recognition of this. This theme opens up a metaphysical territory of how to square Darwin’s insights about the process of biological evolution with a sense of sacredness and spirit and the necessity of hope – a set of questions that Deep Time provocatively raises and which I continue to grapple with in the new project I’m working on.
Find out more about the book here.