Often, the validation we talk about and seek in Druidry comes from other humans. Whether that’s through courses, being read, reading something that speaks of your experience too, being witnessed in ritual, or heard in conversation, we tend to look to each other for affirmation. While there are many people who perhaps also look to the gods for affirmation, often what happens with those experiences (based on observation) is that people bring them back to other people for substantiation. Otherwise what you have is ‘unsubstantiated personal gnosis’ and we tend not to feel that’s substantial enough.
The ephemeral, uncertain qualities of deity make them a bit challenging in this regard, and it’s hard to look around for someone who has seen and felt all the same things. However, deity is not the only non-human form of presence a Druid might encounter.
I’ve had a number of very intense experiences recently, where I gazed at nature, and nature gazed back. Urban foxes who made eye contact, or in one case stopped to have a wash, having acknowledged my presence and decided I was not an issue. Deer who are not afraid of me and stop to look, even when they have young ones with them. Several foraging sparrows who hopped towards me and got within a few feet.
There’s an immediacy to encountering a wild creature. Often it’s a significant blessing just to be tolerated for a few moments during which you can get a proper look at them. To have more than that – eye contact, more time, more interaction – depends on a number of things. You have to either be still and quiet, or moving gently enough that the wild thing does not see you as a threat. The more often they see you (as with me and the deer) the more relaxed they can become. They recognise you, and that’s a very powerful thing. Wild creatures have no reason to stay, to tolerate or to interact, unless we give them reason, or make it very easy for them. There’s a measure of how you are in the world to be found in the gaze of something that is free to leave.
In human exchanges we tend to look for word based affirmations. Non-human people won’t give us that, but they do speak with actions, body language and the fact of their presence. For me, this is something that creates a deeper awareness of myself as a physical presence in the world – I can tend to be too much in my head, if I’m not careful. The gaze of a wild thing reminds me that I too am a physical presence.
Once, our ancestors were wild things, too. In finding how to encounter non-human people, we can re-wild ourselves a bit.