Category Archives: What is Druidry?

Druidry and Privilege

Back when I was first exploring ideas of privilege, there was a person who used to show up on my blog to argue with me. I’ve since deleted most of her stuff.  If I talked about body size, she’d be in to tell me how hard things can be for thin people. I talked about the social issues around being found unattractive, and she responded by telling me how hard things can be when you grow up pretty. I remember her writing about her home, and big garden, and driving to get to the farmer’s market, and me raising the issue of privilege and being told that she wasn’t privileged.

We were all fairly new to the privilege conversations at this point. I did not then know how normal this type of conversation would become – that people who have considerable amounts of privilege are often incredibly resistant to seeing it, or to imagining what life would be like without those things. I know at this point how normal it is for people with massive privilege to dismiss the challenges faced by others, to treat the inconvenience they experience as being comparable, and to minimise the suffering of those who have significantly less.

These days I would have both the confidence and the insight to call out someone for this kind of crappy thinking. At this point I know that I am right about this stuff, and was right at the time. I never owed anything to the poor little rich girl who wanted to feel sorry for herself over how her attractiveness made other people jealous. One of the things massive privilege likes to do is whinge when it looks like the focus of attention is moving somewhere else. Immense privilege is used to being centre stage, and feels entitled, and resents the suggestion that something else matters more, so dammit, if the way to compete is to prove that really you are the disadvantaged one, then that’s what you do to stay firmly centre stage and most important.

For me, justice is an important part of Druidry. The work of seeking justice begins in yourself. If means being anti-racist and starting by looking hard at your own prejudices and assumptions, for example. It means looking at your privilege and the differences between what you have, and what others do not have. Justice requires a willingness to be uncomfortable. This includes a willingness not to be centre stage, and to recognise that other people may have bigger problems. Yes, thin can bring issues and criticism, but it will not usually mean a doctor automatically ignores your symptoms and attributes them to your body shape. 

For there to be justice, we have to listen to each other. One of the easiest ways to derail a bid for justice is to insist that something else is more important. When men insist on foregrounding violence experienced by men in response to someone trying to talk about violence inflicted on women by men, for example. At the same time, if someone is talking about issues with no reference to the privilege involved, that actually needs derailing. No, we can’t all drive to the farmer’s market to buy local organic veg. Not all of us can drive, or afford that kind of food, and it isn’t that we aren’t trying hard enough.

And today, justice is allowing myself the space to feel angry on my own account that I had to deal with all of that. Angry that someone persistently worked to undermine me, to derail me, to minimise genuine issues and to put themselves centre stage in this space that is mine. I’m allowed to be angry, but it’s taken me a lot of years to be able to hold that for myself.


Druidry and the body

One way to honour nature is to honour it as it manifests in our own bodies. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because capitalist cultures are set up to have us not doing that. We work for too long and don’t rest enough. We’re sold allegedly convenient foods that are harmful to us. We dose ourselves with chemicals. We don’t spend enough time moving around, or being outside. Consumer culture makes it hard to honour nature within ourselves.

This week my body has made it clear that I have to figure out how to be a lot kinder to it. My body is no longer prepared to go along with the demands I make of it. This animal self needs more that as healing, comforting and restorative. I note that I think of my body as something separate from ‘me’ and that I’ve been in a running battle with my body for most of my life. What I want to do and what I expect of myself are not compatible with what my body can actually sustain, and this has always been an issue for me.

Currently I’m experiencing menopause issues. I have been for a while, and every now and then I get really knocked about by it. Where menopausal stuff intersects with problems I already have, the results can be desperately unpleasant. One thing that is clear is that I need more slack in how I organise my time so that if I get in to trouble, I can focus on it. I’m going to have to give my body more priority and I’m going to have to be kinder to it and take better care of it.

There are ideas that come up around Druidry, around other spiritual paths and in other aspects of life that don’t help with this. Discipline is one such. Discipline doesn’t encourage us towards listening to our bodies or treating them kindly. There are all kinds of ideas out there about what we should be doing in relation to the wheel of the year that doesn’t take into account how the seasons impact on our bodies. Notions of spiritual routine and daily devotion may not give anyone enough flexibility to handle a body that just can’t do the things right now. An approach to Druidry that begins with practicing kindness towards your own body might work very differently.

At the moment I am simply trying to figure out how to be kind. It goes with trying to figure out how to be this body, rather than just inhabiting it. This flesh and skin is also part of the natural world. It is a soft mammal that craves rest and peace, gentleness and sleep. It’s time to stop making this body fit in with capitalist notions of what a person is for. This is no longer just a philosophical consideration for me – I can’t face being in so much pain that I can’t function, and that seems to be where I’m heading if I can’t make enough changes.

It’s taken me far longer than usual to write this blog, and I’m going to be fine with that. Everything is taking far longer today. I need to slow down, to prioritise rest, to sleep more and do less. I know I’ve been saying all of this for years, and I have been (ironically slowly) moving in this direction, but I need to embrace it more fully, and let this body call the shots more often.

For the time being, I’m going to make listening to my body the focus of what I’m doing as a Druid. I’m going to dedicate myself to learning about nature as it manifest within my own skin, and treating that piece of the natural world with more care and respect.


Druidry and Confession

I’ve felt for some time now that the Catholics are on to something with confession. There are times when it would be an enormous relief to be able to tell someone the things.

As Druids don’t have a clear set of rules in the first place, it would be down to the individual to decide what they need to confess. We wouldn’t need to frame it as sin necessarily. Failures, shortcomings, mistakes, bad ideas, poor responses – whatever a person felt uncomfortable about, could be usefully owned in a safe space.

The wise and experienced Druid hearing the confession could then tell us what they think of it. There are times when it would be really helpful to hear things like ‘this is just ordinary human error.’ ‘Clearly you could not have know how this would work out’ and things of that ilk. Feedback that isn’t forgiveness, but that could be permission to forgive yourself. We all mess up, but it can be hard not to beat yourself up over mistakes.

Confession in a Druid context wouldn’t be about penitence or punishment, but it might be about restorative justice. Again there are lots of times when it might be of great benefit to have someone else’s wisdom in the mix. Imagine someone who can say ‘you really do need to apologise for this’ or ‘here are some things you could try that might be restorative.’

People who are having a hard time with their mental health and/or dealing with abuse can end up feeling responsible for things that aren’t of their making. The process of confessing could open the way to hearing that you may be taking too much onto yourself or judging yourself too harshly. It could signpost the way to therapy, or to kinder thoughts. Sometimes being told that you can’t possibly be responsible for what’s going on is the first step to recognising an abusive situation. None of this requires much in the way of qualification, I think. Just enough life experience to spot when people feel responsible for things they cannot possibly be responsible for.

There would be relief in being able to say to someone ‘this is how I have messed up’ and hearing their take on it, offered in kindness. Obviously there’s no formal way to do this at the moment, but it is something we might be able to do for each other.


Druidry, integration, disintegration

This is a process I’ve been through a few times now. When I’m engaging with Druidry in a deliberate way, what that means is that I’ll be trying to embed something into my life.  Inevitably there was a lot of this early on in following the path. The more successful a person is at embedding their spiritual work into their life, the less visible it becomes.

If you have a prayer practice, if meditation is part of your life, if you live in a contemplative way, if you deliberately engage with nature, and serve in what ways you can… it can become strangely invisible.  A ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ sort of situation, perhaps.

I go through phases of feeling not very Druidy at all. Often what happens is I’ll then run into another Druid online talking about the history, or the mythology and it will occur to me that I do know a fair bit of this stuff, and that I am living my principles and maybe it’s ok.

Public ritual seems to be the best antidote to these small patches of crisis. Standing together in circle there’s chance to affirm our own journeys and practices, and to remind ourselves and each other what it is that we do, and who we are. There aren’t many things that it is easier to do on your own, I think. Humans thrive on recognition from other humans, from feelings of belonging and involvement. However solitary your path is, there’s something really helpful about getting to check in with other Druids now and then for the affirmation that what you do does indeed make some kind of sense, and does look like Druidry.

It’s nearly 9am as I write this. I’ve listened to the dawn chorus, I’ve been outside in the sun. I’ve held a creative space to nurture someone else’s Awen. I’ve done a teensy bit of online tree activism. I’ve thought about a lot of things deeply, including how best to talk about Neo-Paganism and what it might be useful to say during a talk I’ve been asked to give.

Every now and then I persuade myself that being a Druid is clearly something more glamorous and fantastical than I am capable of. But, that may have a lot more to do with my sense of self than it does with what showing up as a Druid on a daily basis looks like. It’s not only about having fantastic photos of your gorgeous self to put on social media – although that can be an effective way of inspiring people and adding beauty to the world. There’s room. There’s room for what I do and for the sort of person I am.

This has all led me to ask questions about what I might do for myself that would allow me to feel specialness and take more joy in the path. What can I give to myself? What can I do that will help me feel more overtly Druidic? I’m aware I have feelings that if I’m enjoying something too much I’m probably doing it wrong, or am not entitled to that, but this is a story that could be changed. What could I do that would allow me to enjoy being me a bit more?


Druidry and Celebration

What should Druids celebrate? The short answer is – anything you find meaningful. While a lot of writing prioritises the 8 festivals model, it’s not the only way to approach celebration as a Druid.

Druidry honours nature. Therefore any aspect of nature that you want to celebrate, you could honour in ritual. Solar events, moon phases, how the seasons manifest where you are. If there are significant local events, you might want to honour those – arrivals and departures of migrating birds, key local crops, wild flowers – whatever feels important.

Druidry honours ancestors of blood. Therefore as a Druid you may find it makes sense to include festivals that your blood ancestors honoured. If you grew up with a different religion that you still respect and want to acknowledge, or if there are festivals that are culturally important to you, or part of your family identity, honour those.

Druidry honours ancestors of place. If it makes sense to honour festivals that relate to your location, go for it. Engaging with the culture around you can make a lot of sense.

Druidry honours ancestors of tradition – if you feel something belongs to your history, honour it. The 8 festivals in the wheel of the year fall into this category, and there might well be festivals from other Pagan traditions that make sense to you.

As Druids we also get to take ourselves seriously, if we want to. If there are important days in your wheel of the year that you need to honour and approach in sacred ways – you should go with that.

Druidry is pragmatic. Meet up when you can. If community celebration is your focus, getting together can be more important than the precise timing.

It’s good to celebrate. It’s good to engage with the world in a joyful way and to connect with other people while doing that. If you run into someone who is dogmatic about what Druids should and shouldn’t be celebrating, try to be compassionate. They probably need to feel in control for some personal reason. They may need the comfort and security some people find in rules and systems. They may not feel confident enough in their own choices to follow those without the affirmation of everyone else being the same.

Your Druidry is your Druidry. Your celebrations are your celebrations. That’s all held by the context of your culture, family background, personal heritage and local landscape. Celebrating is good. Celebrate in any way you find meaningful, soulful, helpful or necessary.


Modern Druidry and Priesthood

One of the most striking ideas in 20th century Paganism was that we could and perhaps should all be our own priests and priestesses. In many ways this is a wonderful idea: No submitting to someone else’s authority, no dogma, and the equality of all being able to speak to the divine on our own terms.

There are however, downsides. Being a priest or priestess is a lot of work. I’ve sauntered towards it in the past. What I notice is how often I wish there was somewhere I could easily, regularly go and just sit in, where showing up would feel meaningful. Sometimes, finding the ideas, energy and inspiration for maintaining your spiritual practice is hard. Sometimes guidance is needed, or just not having to carry the weight of the whole thing.

Of course historically, the people we tend to think of as Celts were not Druids – Druids were a group within that culture, performing specific roles. A Druid community made up entirely of people doing the Druid priest thing is going to have rather a lot of healers and diviners and all the rest of it, but perhaps not enough people focused on other things. It’s not easy being a Druid if you don’t have someone to be a Druid for. Historically, being a priest meant mediating between the divine and the people, it’s what defines that role. So, if we are all our own priests and priestess, what does that job even involve?

It’s not a question I find easy to answer. The thing about ministering is that we often need it doing for us – to be taught. To be guided through times of crisis. To be inspired and uplifted. To be healed when you need it, to be held and comforted by your path – these are really hard things to do for yourself.

Perhaps the answer is to aspire to be a part time Druid. Right now we need to re-skill and decarbonise, we need growers and makers and doers in all areas of life. To serve the earth or to serve your people or any deity associated with the natural world, I think you have to be considering climate chaos and the need to reduce consumption. We need the equality of having the right to stand as our own priests and priestesses and the right to be our own spiritual authority. That protects us all from dogma, and power gaming and gurus and all the problems that brings. But at the same time, we will all have days when we need ministering to, when we need someone else to be our Druid for a bit.

By not aspiring to be full time, and not aspiring to hold positions of authority, we might be able to have something egalitarian that is also supportive and that shares out all the different kinds of work that needs doing. I think that’s what I can see happening across the community – that full time Druids are rare and few people seem to aspire to that position any more.


Druid in nature

Many of the things we might do as Druids to connect with nature have serious impacts on nature. Walk on the bare earth in the winter and you’ll add to erosion. With more people seeking green spaces as an antidote to lockdown, paths get wider, wild plants are deprived of space, and popular spots suffer from erosion from all the footfall.

If you get off the path to really commune, the odds of doing damage increases. The wildflowers, plants and even the soil structures underfoot will suffer, so will anything trying to live in them. We’re less of a strain on wild creatures when we are predictable. Getting off the path means getting into the space where someone else is trying to live. Nature is pushed to the limits as it is, we should question how ‘Druidic’ it really is to get out there and take more of it for our own benefit.

How far do you drive your car in order to commune with nature?

If you light a fire without using a fire dish, you are going to harm the ground. Your smoke may cause harm. Your fire may scorch leaves and branches. If you’ve got a well tended and responsibly set up fire pit in an appropriate place, fair enough. Mostly, having a fire ‘out in nature’ is harmful.

If you leave offerings they really had better be of some use to the wildlife in the area and not an active hazard.  If you tie cloth to a tree it had better be 100% natural fibres, or it won’t break down for ages, and will constrict the tree’s growth. When it does eventually break down it will release plastics into the environment and it will hang about as a choking hazard. Tea lights and the empty cases of tea lights aren’t good for nature. Abandoned food items can be highly problematic. Anything in plastic… anything left in a jar or in a pot or shoved into a hole someone else may have called home… If you haven’t thought carefully about an offering, there’s a real risk what you’re doing is an act of vandalism.

Foraging can feel like a great way of connecting with nature. But how much are you taking? How much can the landscape afford to lose? By all means, eat a few blackberries, snack on a few leaves. But if you come through with a carrier bag to take a great stash of wild plants, you aren’t communing, you’re consuming. Nature is not endless bounty. Nature is something we’re pushing to breaking point and we have to stop imagining we can take anything we want.

How much noise do we take into wilder places for our rituals? How much light pollution do we cause around rituals at night and out of doors? How much do we take? How much do we take for granted? To what degree do we let our feelings of being special and spiritual override any consideration for the realities we’re imposing on the natural world?

Nature isn’t some abstract concept to be worshipped in whatever way appeals to our egos. Nature is living creatures and living landscapes, and suffering from human exploitation. We need to commune in ways that aren’t actively harmful. Don’t let your Druidry be part of the problem.


Talking to Anna McKerrow

I’ve been a fan of Anna McKerrow’s writing for many years now. So, when she asked if I’d like to do an interview with her, I managed not to go entirely into incoherent fan-girl mode, and I said yes.

It’s always tricky trying to talk about Druidry. I’ve spent the last twenty years trying to figure out what Druidry is, and I’m still not sure I know. We’re a large and diverse community, and I try and get that across as best I can, but inevitably what I think Druidry is gets coloured by my personal experiences.

The books I should have mentioned when talking about Welsh deities were

Gods and Goddesses of Wales – Halo Quin

Pagan Portals Rhiannon – Jhenah Telyndru

Pagan Portals Blodeuwedd – Jhenah Telyndru

Cerridwen, Celtic Goddess of Inspiration – Kristoffer Hughes


Druidry and Inspiration

I remember back in my twenties having a conversation with a Very Important Druid about how inspiration works for me. I had come to recognise that it depends a lot on relationship, but I was finding it hard to hold the kinds of relationships with people that enabled the flow of inspiration for me. The Very Important Druid told me that I should be seeking those relationships not with humans, but in the natural world and with the elements.

Twenty years later, I can say with total confidence that the key to creativity for me lies in my relationships with people. It’s when inspiration flows from one person to another that I do my best work. I make things for people. I make things in response to people. Without people to engage with, I do not create.

The hills are indifferent to me. The rain is disinterested. The ground barely notices my passing. The sky does not see me. I find solace in this, there is something oddly comforting about being irrelevant. I go out and I spend time with the land and the sky, but I don’t make anything out of that unless someone else needs me to. I can see how a person dealing with more personified aspects of nature, or working with deity might find it meaningful to create for them and offer that creativity only to them. But honestly, I’ve never found a pond that cared whether or not I wrote a sonnet about it.

I can do the most good with my creativity if I can take it to people and change something for them. If I can help someone else experience the land as alive and precious, then that might do some small thing to help the land. The water does not need me to throw words at it, but it might benefit from me persuading people to treat it with more care and respect.

Other people may of course have totally different experiences. What I’m for, is talking to people about stuff. If your bard path means that you sing to foxes, or dance for the moon, or make art with the falling rain and that works for you – excellent. But it’s not me, and it isn’t what I do.

Of course it was tricky being young, and new to all this and being told by a Very Important Druid that everything I thought about how my inspiration worked was pretty much wrong. But here I am. I make Hopeless Maine stuff with and for Tom Brown. I write Wherefore with and for Bob Fry, and Robin Treefellow. There are a number of people I write poetry for and because of. I’m exploring collaborations with Dr Abbey again. I write for steampunks. I write for people who give me feedback to say that what I do is helpful. I write for Patreon supporters. I write this blog for you, dear readers. All of you. For you and because of you. Because enough of you are subscribed, and leave comments, and like and share what I put up that I know it has value.

And I do not write anything at all any more for the Very Important Druid.


Druidry and everyday practice

There are a lot of advocates out there for having an everyday practice. There are people who will tell you that if you can’t meditate for ten minutes a day, you should do it for an hour. I don’t know that this is helpful.

Some people do really well with routines and predictability. If that’s you, excellent and you likely already have a fair idea of what you need and how best to do it. Much of our daily behaviour tends to be habit based, so if you’re the sort of person who runs on autopilot, then setting up good routines and good habits is a really excellent idea that will serve you well.

But what if it doesn’t? What if routines chafe you and stifle your creativity? What if doing the same thing every day makes you miserable?

Druidry teaches us to honour nature. How nature manifests in you needs to be part of that. How your mind works is part of how nature manifests in you, and we’re not all the same. I think we’re too often persuaded to think of our minds as a special human thing that makes us separate from nature. Your brain is squishy tissue, chemicals, evolution and experience, it is a hot mess of mammal reality and is just as much a part of your animal self as any other bit of your body.

Some creatures like routines; they wake at the same point in each day in relation to the light, seek food in the same places and are reasonably predictable. Some creatures do not have predictable cycles – they don’t breed at the same time each year, they don’t come past the same sites each night, you never know where they might be or what they might be doing. Otters are like this.  Some creatures are seasonal, with habits for certain parts of the year that change at other times. There are lots of different ways of being a mammal.

It’s ok not to have a routine. It’s ok not to have a daily Pagan practice if having one makes you unhappy. It’s ok to make things up as you go along, doing what feels right whenever the mood is upon you. It’s no less valid. We live in a culture that praises and values discipline and predictability, but these are things that work well for industrial life and current workforces. It’s not the only way to be. In Europe, we also have a long history in which Christian monastic life has shaped our cultural ideas about what a good and substantial spiritual practice looks like. It’s not a universal truth that spiritual people work within deliberate structures to focus their dedication.

Structure can be a way of not paying attention, thinking or truly engaging with your spirituality. Being spontaneous can be an excuse for being careless and not really investing much time or energy. There are pitfalls and opportunities either way.