What is Druidry For?

Permit me the indulgence of starting with a strawman. The sort of Druid for whom Druidry is lovely, because nature is lovely, and everything is love and the universe is lovely and everything happens for the highest good and for a reason and by the way did I mention, it’s all lovely? Not entirely a strawman because these ideas do exist. The lovely Druidry of just getting to say how lovely it is, how lovely we are. Would you like some lovely sauce on that? Lovely.

It doesn’t work for me. Yes, the rainbows and sunsets are charming, yes the bird song is exquisite and I see all of this. I also see the road kill, the plastic rubbish in the streams, and the dead look too many people have in their eyes. Poverty isn’t lovely. Sickness isn’t lovely. I don’t think the universe loves us, benevolence is certainly not a given.

And then there’s the small matter of the Celts. Everything I know about the Celts tells me that they were a wild, passionate, creative, intense sort of people, willing to fight to the death over a matter of honour. In the art and the stories, in the traditions that seem to have come from there over the centuries, I see passion. Rage and jealousy exist alongside overwhelming love. Lust is as important as romantic attachments in terms of causing things to happen. And yes, we have reason to think of the ancient Druids as wise peacemakers and knowledge holders in this culture. It would be ridiculous to think that they held wildly different values from those around them, though.

For me, Druidry is about how to live well in a tradition that is full blooded, life embracing and passionate. It’s not about withdrawing from the world to a state of perfect calm. It’s not about taming emotions into submission. The Celts were a tempestuous, fighty people (in so far as it is fair to even use the word ‘Celt’ to represent a vast array of tribes over a long period, but, it saves time, so please indulge me). For this life to be viable, there must be balances, co-operation, times of harmony and productivity. We can’t all spend our entire time having fiery Celtic warrior meltdowns because we felt insulted. Pride and honour, necessity and responsibility all have to be balanced up, and for me, entering into a nature-based path of spirituality and philosophy is about learning how to do this well.

There should be times to be boastful and riotously drunk. There should be times when we react with fury and fight tooth and nail for honour and for what is right. There should be times for deep reflection and introspection. I want a life that embraces these things, not something harmless, bloodless, toothless that can only say ‘well, that’s lovely, isn’t it?’

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

20 responses to “What is Druidry For?

  • landisvance

    Yes, yes YES! A passionate engagement with all that it means to be human, with life itself, but with awareness and intention.

  • aboymadeofsky

    Interesting topic, thanks for raising it Nimue!

    In the spirit of friendly constructive debate, I’d like to offer an alternative view – I share your weariness of the shallow narrative of “lovely” Druidry, but I’m not sure if I would agree with the solution you propose. I think the vision of the “wild, passionate Celt” is actually something of an inaccurate stereotype; coming out of (often English) Romanticism, rather than actual ancient Druidic societies, or indeed the realities of life in Ireland, Wales, Scotland of the present. The heady airs of the Celtic Twilight might seem like a tonic for banality of life today, but I’m concerned by two things about it:

    1) The Celtic Twilight cannot exist without its antithesis – the towering edifice of Whiggish, Industrial, Imperial Britain. It unfortunately plays in to a lot of extremely dubious and offensive ideas about the Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Manx, etc. – that they are tradition-bound, backward, un-intellectual, unsophisticated, and emotionally volatile – and indeed English-dominated British society – that it is rational, urbane, buttoned-up, stuffy, intellectual, detached from the body and the soul. Both these stereotypes are highly problematic, and should (in my opinion), be challenged, rather than integrated and sustained within Druidic thought and practice.

    2) The Celtic Twilight does a disservice, I think, to the intellectual and technological accomplishments of the Celts – particularly in the realms of logistics, astronomy, and aesthetics. The Celts were not a bunch of boozy warmongers, even though clearly war and wine played a huge part in Celtic society. This is again, something of a nasty stereotype deployed by against the Celts by their enemies and erstwhile trading partners in the Med. Relying on this idea to revive a sense of authentic “Celticness” would be a bit like the descendants of Germans 2,000 years from now trying to recapture a sense of the Deutschenvolksgeist on the basis of a bunch of English people complaining about towels being left on sunloungers.

    That said, I think you’re absolutely right to pose this question of what Druidry is “for”. I think this question is a very important one, and a lack of a comprehensive answer to it has led to the appearance of the not-quite-strawman of “lovely Druidry” that you describe. Buddhism has a purpose. Christianity has a purpose. Marxism has a purpose. Poststructuralism has a purpose. Druidry? I’m sure it does, but thus far, nobody has really attempted to discern what that purpose might be, and Druidry is starting to decline in popularity and relevance as a result.

    So even though I’ve just charged in and disagreed with the answer you’ve given above, I’m extremely encouraged and engladdened by the fact that you’re asking the question!

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you for this – I’m not going to argue with you at all on any of that. What I will say is that for me, passion and intellect are not exclusive traits, that what I’m looking for is both the riotousness and the reflection, and the way to balance the two, and to balance other intense and powerful things. Nature and civilization, peace and change. I come back again and again to the single image of a man with one foot on a goat and the other on a well. To be passionate and reasoning, to ahve a rich breadth of possible responses to the experience of being alive. Does that make any sense?

      • Kaylee

        Perfect sense to me. I have found that there is this idea that reason is perfect, that it should be worshipped. With it comes a disdain for anything emotional or passionate. We should use both, because placing one above the other leads to other imbalances and all sorts of problems.

      • Nimue Brown

        Absolutely. And the reverse is true too, that some people treat emotion as authentic and reason as cold and calculating, and that’s just as unhelpful.

    • sylvaingrandcerf

      A most well-crafted disagreement! Nicely done!

      It seems to me that the focus of druidry must remain on the roots… ie Nature… and the land that sustains each culture (be it Celtic cultures or others). Nature is not what Wald Disney portrays and all fluffy bunnies. Sometimes the fluffy bunnies are predated and the cycle of life continues. Our modern Western societies have been selling the idea that we must all live perfect lives and that if your life is not perfectly lovely, you are not being treated fairly. The nature of reality is that change is a constant and the nature of humanity is that we resist change.

      I love your vision of druidry. (If you have ever read the works of Jean Giono, he often wrote about the earthiness of the life of the people of the land).

  • Scott Tizzard

    Oh definitely! Bring on the Soul Fire! Nature is not always roses and sunshine. My Druidry is an exploration of all facets of my life and the world in which I live. It is a place from which I centre myself but never do I delude myself that my Druidry is outside of Nature.

  • Cadno Ddraig

    This is well done, Nimue! I often feel quite conflicted about the excessively positive attitude we pagans have to nature. There is darkness and horror in the world and in ourselves. This is where the savior religions come into their own, isn’t it? Whether we’re talking about Krishna, Buddha or Jesus, someone comes along and offers us a way out – a way to a realm of pure light and love. Does Druidry have an end game, do you think, or is it heroically riding the ever-returning tides and cycles of the cosmic drama with all the freedom and joy we can muster?

  • Christopher Blackwell

    We have more than our share of white lighters in Wicca. It is not just silly, but it can actually prevent people from doing what needs to be done, not only for protection, but in bringing bad things to an end, all under the fear that one might accidentally hurt someone unknowingly. It is true that anything that you do might end up hurting someone in some way, but it is also true that doing nothing might also hurt someone in some way. Welcome to real life.

    Mistakes will happen, regardless, so you just have to take responsibility for your mistakes, pay whatever price is necessary and clean up whatever part of the mess that you can. Just never allow your fear of mistakes, or hurting anyone, paralyze you into helplessness, and non-functioning.

    • Nimue Brown

      That’s such an important point, because harm done by choosing inaction is just as real, and just as much a person’s responsibility as harm caused by action.

    • locksley2010

      “It is true that anything that you do might end up hurting someone in some way, but it is also true that doing nothing might also hurt someone in some way.” Brilliantly said Mr. Blackwell!

  • Ryan C.

    Absolutely! I think that honest engagement with the ugly and uncomfortable truths of life, and squarely facing the reality of “nature red in tooth and claw” is an essential part of a mature Druidic perspective on the world.

    That said, I do feel that there is a need and a place for the “loveliness” as well. In a society where people are taught to be cynical, to sneer at joy and meaning, sometimes we need someone to come along and tell us to stop worrying and smell the flowers.

    As with anything, I think it comes down to balance. Neither being too “love and light” and ignoring the problems we face, nor too hard-nosed to see the beauty inherent in life.

    • Nimue Brown

      Balance is good 🙂 Although I’m not averse to some more full bloodied responses than ‘lovely’ – I’ve cried over paintings, I want to be blown away now and then, overwhelmed, awed… and to have quieter space for the little beauties.

  • Blodeuwedd

    This type of ‘everything’s lovely’ spirituality terrifies me, mostly because it accepts that nothing needs changing. The one that really got to me recently was someone justifying eating meat because at some point the sheep/cow/pig made a conscious decision to be born into that body for that purpose. Now, the whole vegetarian or not debate is a different and huge issue that I don’t want to get into and where I stand on it varies hugely, but that particular argument fills me with horror because the corollary is ‘its ok that that guy raped and murdered a child because at some point she chose that.’ No no no no no. That sort of ‘fluffy bunny theology’ (I used that phrase a lot when I was teaching) leads to unspeakable horror so the ‘everything’s lovely’ approach not only set you up for a huge spiritual crisis when something goes wrong but it is also ethically dangerous.

    What is Druidry to me? I think acknowledging networks of relationship between human, animal and ‘other than human’ (thank you to the Ubiquitous Graham Harvey) persons and trying (usually failing, but at least trying) to live honourably. The ‘Celtic past’ is fascinating, but of less spiritual significance to me than to some others. For me its about now rather than then. Relationship with deity is something I’ve been trying to work out for about 35 years. Not there yet 🙂

    • Nimue Brown

      Yes – that’s very much it. it is the ultimate victim blaming to say that they chose to be here. I’m not clear on the meat/no meat issues either, but, I feel very confident that ‘the pig chose it’ is a truly disgusting justification.

  • Scott Tizzard

    Hi Nimue. I’ve been giving this some further thought. My first answer was just a quip; but I have been thinking more deeply. What you asked is rather an existential question. It is not just a question of definition or form; it is a question about manifestation. Intellectually, I believe Druidry is a poke in Modernity’s eye. Defining it as a Nature Based Spirituality provides about as much consensus as one will get on the subject, I believe. It is like the saying, “Ask 3 Druids what a Druid is and you’ll get 9 answers”.

    What is the purpose of Druidry? For me it is to dispense with the separation of mind and matter. It is to dispense with dualistic thinking. However we choose to follow our Paths; the purpose of Druidry is to reintegrate ourselves as within Nature. This is not some utopian idea of living in Iron Age communities or Yurts in the country side. As Druids we are to reintegrate with nature in all aspects of our modern lives and to live as such. If we begin with the assertion that we are NOT separate from Nature, then we will have a future. The Enlightenment provided a foundation from which we have created this present time. But it carries the seeds of our destruction. We chose once; we can choose again.

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