Category Archives: What is Druidry?

Presenting as a Druid

I’m always interested in how we define or experience authenticity, versus when we see things as fake, in ourselves and when looking at other people. For me, authenticity is very much part of what it means to live as a Druid. To act authentically, to show up as a person not just a performance and to connect with people and others from a place of honesty. 

However, as soon as you put clothes on and use words you’re engaged in a process of deliberate choices. Part of being human is how we express ourselves to others, how we want to be seen and understood. There’s a hazy area between aspiration and performance. If I want to become a kinder and more patient person my best bet is to try and act like a kinder and more patient person until the process of doing that becomes ingrained in me and part of who I am. There’s not much difference between that and the person who simply wishes to seem kind and patient acts and either person can mess up and let something else show.

When you look at another person, it is hard to tell if they’re undertaking to fake it until they make it. Maybe they are showing you their most authentic self. Maybe they are a people pleaser trying to perform the role they think you most want them to play. Maybe they are an abuser with a persona that protects them and enables them to groom new victims. From the outside it can be impossible to tell what anything really means. Inherently charismatic people are good at persuading others of their innate worth. Socially awkward people can come across badly but still be full of wisdom and compassion.

Druids who are wise, knowledgeable, experienced and compassionate will often discourage others from seeing them as leaders and authorities. Druids who want to be important may go to a lot of effort to present as plausible leaders and authorities. Some Druids step forward to lead and offer authority because they have valuable skills to offer and want to help people. Some Druids pretend to be humble because they’ve figured out that it’s a good look.

I can’t know what’s going on in someone else’s head. I do know that it is very human to feel judgemental of other people. We get social reinforcement by looking around and identifying people to feel we are superior to, and people to look up to as role models and leaders. How we judge each other may have a lot more to do with our own desires to know where we fit than with anyone’s innate qualities. 

It’s good to think about what we’re attracted to, what we find convincing and engaging and what seems laughable or insubstantial. Are we drawn to beauty, charisma and glamour in our potential leaders? Are we deeper people if we mistrust those things, or is that just a different set of values, prejudices and performance styles at work? Any time you feel moved to say ‘that Druid is superficial and insubstantial’ it’s worth looking at exactly what we’re rejecting and why. Humbleness and self effacement can be just as much a performance as fancy robes, and can be a highly successful one. It depends on what buttons you have to push.

How deliberate is your presentation style? What are you putting into the world as a Druid? How deliberate a performance is your Druidry? Does the idea of Druidry as public performance make you feel uneasy and inauthentic, or might that be an entirely valid aspect of what it means to be a priest, a bard, a celebrant? How does anyone else benefit from our Druidry if we don’t perform it in a deliberate way? Is it enough to live your truth, or is it necessary to make that more visible?

Sunlight and shadow

For me, woodland works in many ways as a metaphor for Druidry. I like the image of Druidry not being a single path, but being many possible journeys through the wood. I like the idea of Druidry as a terrain rather than as something more directional and focused on a goal. We’re in the wood, the wood is the destination, there is no extra special place to get to, no finish line to cross, it’s just about being in the wood.

Of course woods change all the time. They change with the seasons. They change one year to the next – trees grow, trees fall, paths become overgrown, new paths open up. Wild residents change in number, and location. The wood is not a fixed place. The metaphorical Druid wood is also not a static thing.

The other feature of woodland that has long struck me as being a good Druid concept, is that interplay of light and shadow. Across a wood, light levels can vary dramatically. You might find open clearings where the light is bright. Woods can be very dark – at night they cut out a lot of light pollution so you can get proper darkness under trees. Most of the time what you find is this constant and ever changing dappling of light and shadow. I don’t find the way that some people equate light with good and darkness with evil to be especially helpful because both are part of nature. I think Druidry belongs to the dappled and shifting light of woodland, where there is also beauty in the shadows and in the contrast. This is not to say I think Druidry is or should be amoral, more a recognition that everything is complicated and few things turn out to be purely good or purely bad.

What is a Druid Life?

For me, the key ingredient of a Druid life is that it is a considered life. The processes of contemplation and exploration are really important to me. I think philosophy is something we should do as part of how we live, and that thinking about things is generally a good idea. This is why a lot of the time my blog posts are me poking around in ideas.

That consideration is framed by a number of priorities and values. As someone whose spirituality is centered on the natural world, questions of how to live sustainably and restoratively are important to me. How do we reduce our impact on the planet? How do we protect life? I’m also concerned with social justice, which I think is intrinsic to environmental justice. I try to live my life in accordance with my values, although I’m always learning and always aware that I could do better.

For all of those reasons, I’m anti-capitalist. I think we need as many alternative ideas as we can about ways to work, share, organise and fairly distribute resources. This has me talking about community a lot. I’m also exploring the ways in which focusing on things as individual problems helps perpetuate them when we need community solutions and social change.

I’m exploring the bard path because I think creative sharing is often the better way to engage with people. We’re storytelling creatures and we respond to emotional content. We also need creativity both to enrich our lives and to open us to new and better ways of existing.

The overtly Druidic content is a fairly small part of what I do. Sometimes I write on obviously Pagan and Druid topics, but I find a lot of the time this just doesn’t seem like the best way to do the Druidry. For some years now I’ve felt that Druidry is best served by me doing the day to day things as outlined above, but reading any individual post it might not be obvious why I think the content is relevant. I don’t know how useful it would be to include more explicit notes about why any given thing seems relevant to me – I’m very open to feedback in that regard.

How we live, day to day is more important than the occasional big gestures. What you do as a Druid is what you do at home, at work and in your social circles. It’s there in how you spend your money, how you vote, what you support, what you allow, what you ignore. Druidry is not separate from life, and I’m always suspicious of people who think that their spirituality isn’t political.

If you think you aren’t political it’s because you feel safely in line with the status quo. If you don’t have to be political it can only be because your needs and rights aren’t threatened in any way. You aren’t hungry. You aren’t ill. You aren’t in any danger that you can see – which given the climate crisis may be a serious error of judgement. To be a Druid and to be self aware should include an understanding of those relationships. If you have the privilege not to need to engage, then as a Druid, the issue of justice should matter to you, and looking away only ever supports those who cause harm.

Druidry and Asking Questions

For many people, Druidry is as much a philosophical path as a spiritual one. I’m all for asking questions, and for pondering things, but I think it’s also important to ask questions about the questions.

How much time should we spend on questions that we know cannot be answered? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? There are questions you can kick round forever and never answer. You might argue bitterly with people who disagree, thus adding to the total sum of misery in the world. 

Philosophy doesn’t have to be abstract. There’s no need for it to be irrelevant. One of the best and most powerful questions we can ask is the one favoured by small children – why? Why are things the way they are? Why did this happen? Sometimes it helps to carry on and wonder what it means, but not always. The quest for an abstract or spiritual meaning can be a distraction sometimes. The important question might not be ‘why did I see a thrush today, what does it mean?’ but ‘why do I not see thrushes every day?’

It’s always good to ask if things are inevitable or not. We get so used to our own human structures that we collectively take them for truths and realities. Countries are just ideas, as are currencies. The five day working week, nine to five is just an idea, it’s not our natural destiny as people. Who we include and who we exclude, what we allow and what we deny, what and who we treat as important, what and who we throw away… there are so many questions to ask.

Whatever improvements you want to make in the world, part of the process involves convincing people – yourself included – that change is possible. People can only imagine change is possible when they aren’t persuaded that the current state of things is inevitable and natural.

What can my Druidry do for you?

Spirituality of all flavours is often presented as a personal project for personal growth. Achieve inner calm, become inspired, learn how to dance sexy in the moonlight, talk to trees for fun and profit… A great deal of material is sold to us on the basis that by reading/using/burning it we’re going to be better and happier people.

I’m very much in favour of people getting to be better and happier, but I do wonder a lot about the way individualism tends to dominate how we think about spirituality generally, and Druidry in particular. It’s important to ask of everything, ‘what’s in this for me?’ but at the same time that really shouldn’t be the only question.

Who, or what is my Druidry genuinely useful for? What does your Druidry actually get done in the world?

Druids like to talk about webs of connection, the web of life and so forth. It’s all too easy to place yourself at the centre of the web and see what might come towards you along its threads. It’s much harder to think about this web and try to make sense of the impact we have on everything else – both when we’re deliberately doing our Druid stuff, and at other times in our day. 

Reflection is a good thing to make part of your Druid practice. It’s good to ask questions and contemplate the answers. It is well worth thinking about how you are changed by your Druidry, and what impacts that has in the wider world. There are clearly no definitive right answers here, but I do feel strongly that if you can’t see any impact outside of yourself, you probably need to either dig deeper, or start finding ways to apply the Druidry to other parts of your life.

Not quite a Druid staff

Ideally, your proper Druid staff makes you look like you should have been in a Lord of the Ring film, I reckon. Something for striding dramatically into mystical places with, and an aura of being the sort of person who could, if necessary, smite a balrog.

What I’ve got in this photo is the sort of stick people use for hiking. It’s helped me haul myself up a far few hills along the way. I think I’ve got to the point where I’m going to need to default to using it more of the time. 

Walking sticks are great for pushing aside nettles, brambles, and the like. They’re great for dealing with tricky surfaces like slippery mud and loose stones. Having a stick helps me a lot with balance. There are a few things going on with me that affect my balance or can cause me to become dizzy. Having a stick reduces the risk of falling, and being able to lean on it if I can’t sit down is a plus.

Where I’ve always found sticks most useful, is around visual processing. I’m not very good at visual processing at the best of times, and it gets worse when I’m tired. Uneven paths take a lot of thinking about. Going down slopes and steps can be really hard. Sometimes I just have to stop because I can no longer figure out where the ground is, and then whoever I’m walking has to come and rescue me. This happens a lot, and I’m fortunate in my walking companions. I need to get into the habit of having the stick for the shorter walks, too.

I’m good at tactile thinking. My body knows how long the stick is, and by that means, it also knows where the ground is. The same is true for people I am tactile with, whose body shapes I know well enough that I can use that knowledge to make sense of the terrain. It took me a while to figure all of this out and to understand why I get so tired on uneven ground, and why I freeze up sometimes.

It would be nice to have some glorious, dramatic piece of wood to go Druiding with. But on the whole, I need the tool that best allows me to be outside and that isn’t heavy. It’s not a Druid staff because it looks the part, but because it increases my scope to get out there and do the Druid things.

Winter Druidry

While I try to get outside when I can, winter isn’t a good time for me. I don’t handle slippery surfaces well – mud or ice – and the cold makes me hurt more. It’s not a good time of year for doing outdoors rituals, I can’t sit out. This can make me feel distanced from my path, so it’s useful to review the things I can do in winter.

It’s a good time to read, study, explore ideas and develop skills. I’ve done a lot to develop my writing craft this winter, and I’m learning about different cultures and the different ways in which people use language.

Online activism is always an option. I’ve not been doing so well with that lately.

Thanks to the internet, the winter can be spent plotting and planning. I am doing less in-person community, but I’m making plans for future activities. I’m developing some online ideas that I hope will cheer people. I’ve been talking to my local wassail folk with a view to getting more involved. I’m also exploring some creative collaboration.

While I’ve not written much blog content explicitly about Druidry in the last few months, I could do more of that and I might feel better for it. I have been working on a book for the Earth Spirit line at Moon Books which is about authenticity and sustainability, so that’s been where a lot of my more Druidic work has been happening.

I’m doing a lot of work on my own head. This is about knowing myself, and also about healing. I think I can count this as Druidic work. At the same time I’m learning a lot about how other people interact with the world, which hopefully will help me to be a more understanding and compassionate sort of person.

One of the things meeting up with other Druids always gave me was a chance to affirm my own Druid-ness. So, if you want to jump into the comments and talk about what you’re doing, as a Druid, or in any other way that is important to you, I’m delighted to offer that space. Being off on your own too much can make it harder to see what’s going on in your life. Check ins can be really good for thinking about how things are for you.

What does a Druid do?

This is a question to keep asking, and for which there can be no final or absolute answer. What does a Druid do in any given context? What does a Druid do right now?

One answer for me at the moment, is that we can try to model more sustainable living. To honour nature, we have to be working to avert climate disaster and to make human life on Earth more sustainable and viable. There are many ways of doing that. One powerful thing we can do is share our choices and actions with other people.

I think there are a couple of key issues around doing this. Being heavy handed and preachy can put people off – we’ve all seen how this happens around veganism. Engaging people with more responsible and sustainable food choices is a really good idea. Shaming people for what they currently do doesn’t tend to encourage change. Talking about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it tends to be much more effective than lecturing people about what we think they should be doing. Leading by example is more powerful. This is true in all aspects of our lives.

If people feel like they have to suffer and be martyrs for sustainability, most of them won’t want to know. One of our jobs is to figure out how to live well while living sustainably, and then to put that out there where other people can see it. I’m seeing a lot of Pagans playing with fabric in sustainable ways and sharing that – it’s really attractive.

Sustainable living will need to be creative and innovative. We need to do things we feel good about and are excited about if we’re going to maintain it. Sharing things that we’re enjoying and feeling good about is an excellent way to engage other people. The festive period offers us lots of opportunities to do this and to put it where other people can see it – it’s a great time to engage our wider families a bit and to model what happiness looks like without rabid consumerism and waste in the mix.

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.

Druid Online

There are lots of ways of being a Druid online. Anything that people do for and with people can be handled via the internet. While it may not be as appealing to make virtual rituals, it is worth considering the people who, due to where they are, what transport options they have or what challenges they have, are unable to go to physical events. Online Druidry has the scope to include more people.

The internet is a great way of moving information around. Unfortunately it’s just as good for moving crappy ideas, misrepresentation, fantasy, content distorted by appropriation and deliberate bullshit. By being online as a Druid you can offer substantial alternatives. For me, this has often  meant challenging toxic positivity and the ways in which privilege is mistaken for spirituality.

The internet gives us ways to communicate with people in places of power and influence. I know keyboard warriors tend to get bad press, but you can use the internet to speak truth to power. You can use it to organise, educate, amplify those who are ignored and so forth. You can use the internet to work for justice and to stand up for the environment. 

Perhaps one of the most powerful uses for the internet is that it allows us to be kind to each other. Sadly this isn’t how a lot of people seem to use it, but the more people who come online intending to be kind, the more scope there is to shift online culture. Share beauty, share nice things, uplift people, build them up, encourage them… When you’re talking to people who aren’t powerful, kindness is the best thing to offer, usually. It’s even possible to disagree kindly and to argue without resulting to abuse. 

However you view the spiritual dimensions of your path, part of what makes you a Druid is walking your talk. What you bring to the internet is part of how you do that. What you make and give, what causes you serve, and how you use words, and emojis in dealing with other people. My favourite Druids come to the internet to inspire and encourage, offering beauty, wisdom, wit, political analysis, compassion, creativity and more.