Druidry and Desire

Back in my twenties I was, for a little while, a member of The Druid Order of the Yew, which was held within The Druid Network. A big part of what it offered at the time was space and witnessing for dedications. I was really focused on service at the time and framing my Druidry in terms of what I could give. Alongside this I had a problematic home life. The idea of giving more and asking for less became heavily ingrained.

Of course there are always people who want what you can do for them and offer little in return. There are always people who will become unpleasant if you try to show up as a person and not as a service provider. I’ve never been good at handling this and have tended to think that I should offer service and expect nothing in return from anyone. It’s taken a while to challenge that thinking.

What happens if I ask for more? There will be people who don’t like that, and who will either be clear about having a problem with me, or who will gently reverse out of my life and make good their escape. But not everyone. There are also the people whose eyes light up at the thought, and who feel cheered and validated by my wanting more from them and with them. People who aren’t afraid of being needed and who do not experience being valued as some kind of imposition.

I’ve spent a long time treating Druidry as a form of pouring endlessly from myself into the world. Give more, ask for less. Give until it hurts, and then keep giving. I look back and see how convenient that’s been for other people in my history. I also think with hindsight that the person who most encouraged me to shape my service this way was not living on those terms. They are painfully hard terms to live on. 

Child-me had a better handle on this. I remember sitting in an assembly being told about how we are all supposed to help those who are worse off than us and wondering how that even made sense and how on earth you get to be the person who needs helping, on those terms. That a doctrine of giving selflessly to others actually relies on there being people worse off, more vulnerable. You can’t forgive trespasses unless someone undertakes to trespass, either.

What happens if there is more room for desire? What happens if I ask for more, and not less? I start to see how this could enrich not only my experience, but the experiences of people dealing with me. If I allow myself to want, there is a different kind of energy available to me. I cannot pour out from myself endlessly with nothing to replenish me. I can do a lot more if I invite more richness in, and have room for what I need.

Service cannot be a person pouring endlessly from a bucket they do not get to refill. The more I look at it, the more important it seems to me that we all have space for things that are personal, enriching, nurturing, life enhancing and I dare to say it – selfish! I know that the dismantling of selfishness is often seen as a spiritual goal, but increasingly I think what helps most is to change the terms on which we think about our own needs. A person can seek what they want without that inevitably hurting someone else. It is not always the case that for one person to have more, someone else has to go without.

No one is poorer if I have enriching conversations, time in the sun, cat snuggles, affection, time off… no one is reduced by me having things I need for myself. I expect I will come back to this as I reframe what service might mean for me, and rethink how I want to be in the world.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. 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

14 responses to “Druidry and Desire

  • River

    “I’ve spent a long time treating Druidry as a form of pouring endlessly from myself into the world.” This. This was my experience with a Druid group I did a lot of emotional labour for for a couple of years and when I said I needed to step back (not leave, just reduce my workload) I was effectively kicked out to the point of being locked out of shared documents and web spaces that I created. I remember being taught that Druidry was all about service and I similarly hated that idea. I would prefer to think about Druidry, witchcraft, Paganism as being about relationship: with each other and with the world. Service is one way and implies a hierarchy of servant-master. Relationships however are mutual and imply giving and receiving together for the benefit of all.

  • angharadlois

    “a doctrine of giving selflessly to others actually relies on there being people worse off, more vulnerable”

    This touches on a few things that have been coming up for me a lot recently. In my understanding, a doctrine of everyone giving selflessly to everyone is a doctrine of sharing. The Marxist notion of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs” is not so dissimilar to this underlying notion from (I am guessing) Christianity – and it requires us to be honest with one another about both our ability and our needs. No-one is an island. I have never met anyone who didn’t have something to offer others, and I have never met anyone who didn’t have something they needed from others.

    I think there is nothing at all selfish about nurturing yourself with things that are enriching and life enhancing. Making space for honesty about your own needs often means, paradoxically and perhaps unconsciously, needing less from others. And, although you should never have to give to others to justify meeting your own needs, you can – as you say – do a lot more if you invite more richness in.

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you – and I do agree that when the idea of care is mutual and we recognise that we all need support, what follows is a lot healthier. The focus on ‘those worse off than you’ makes it hard to ask for help, i think.

  • Blodeuwedd

    I am a member of the Order of the Yew. When I submitted my vow of service initially it was returned to me with the very gentle submission that I rewrite a part of it so that it did not entail a commitment to give more than I had without holding back time and energy for myself and those I care about. It was a very sensible- actually a necessary amendment and something I have tried not to forget- although to be honest I am really still not very good at setting boundaries!

  • potiapitchford

    Working out the personal balance between being wanted and needed and being able to have your wants and needs met is not at all easy. Especially if one of your needs is for others to want your support and another need is to not give so much you have nothing left. Sometimes those you desire to support will also desire to support you and when that happens it is beautiful.

  • OrderInTheQuartz

    It seems to me that “selfish” is a word that is so heavily tied up in gender roles. A woman chilling alone, maybe making the choice not to have kids, living a private life… oh, she is “selfish.” A man doing the exact same things would almost never be called “selfish.” Those who are cruel (narcissists, etc.) tend to act from an unhealthy sense of self. Some are all about their image and real people don’t matter to them. I think we must have an honest sense of self… be SELFish… in order to connect to others with integrity and authenticity. We need boundaries. Otherwise, interactions devolve into role-playing and surface expectations void of deeper understandings or soul.

  • locksley2010

    Selfish….. or realising self worth? If we give endlessly, then we draw out too much of ourselves until we are broken. Self nurturing and taking time out for ourselves is just as important as sharing our abilities and talents with others.

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