Category Archives: What is Druidry?

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.


Modern Druids

I don’t write much about historical Druids and in truth I’ve never been that interested in trying to reconstruct what ancient Druids did. Religions tend to evolve over time and where there is continuous tradition, there doesn’t tend to be fixed practice. What the ancient Druids did is not likely to make sense in our era of climate crisis, and capitalism, with the majority of humans alienated from the land, tradition, each other, their work…

I’m fairly well read, in that I have a passable knowledge of a fair body of mythology, alongside some awareness of history, pre-history, folklore, religions in general, and the modern Pagan movement. I have some idea what comes from the last few hundred years and what is older. I’m interested in the ideas and inspiration that can be drawn from what we know of history but when it comes down to it, I’m more interested in contemporary Druidry and where it is going, than I am in what we might figure out about where it has been.

People do all sorts of interesting things under the banner of Druidry, and have done for some time now. It’s a term that has inspired cultural efforts, and also fraternal groups designed for mutual care. It’s a spiritual movement that includes atheists, animists, polytheists, Christians and many others. Something about it attracts people from a broad range of backgrounds and beliefs, and these people can come together and share things in ways that are often meaningful.

I’m fascinated by how Druidry has changed in the last twenty years or so. When I first started volunteering for The Druid Network, Druidry was dominated by a few voices, and organised around Orders and Groves. It was about working in groups, and there were a small number of Very Important Druids who tended to dominate the whole thing. But now we have blogs, and youtube, and small events and a proliferation of people doing Druidry in all sorts of ways and talking about it. We have far less hierarchy and authority and, I think, far more Druids who just aren’t that interested in being important and who want to share what they’re doing.

Being a Very Important Druid is hard work, high maintenance stuff likely to attract conflict and drama into your life. It’s actually at odds with having meaningful spiritual experiences. There’s a lot more to be said for being a Druid on your own terms with no responsibility for numbers of students or devotees, and just sharing what you encounter with other people who are doing similar things. There continue to be Orders and Groves and people who run things, and this is good, and it no longer dominates, which is even better.

All religions change over time, depending on the intentions of the people who get involved with them. The past is in many ways a closed book. The future however, is there to be made and shaped. What people do now in the name of Druidry will inform what is to come. I think there’s a lot more to be excited about in considering the future of Druidry and how to do that well, than there is in looking to the past. But at the same time, that’s just me, and I have every respect for those people who find meaning, direction and coherence by looking to ancient Druidry. My way does not invalidate their way. Druidry should be roomy enough to accommodate this, and more.


The embodied Druid

About ten years ago I started running into the idea that we live too much in our heads and that Druidry calls for embodiment. Now, I’m very into the idea that we are nature and that we need to engage with nature as it manifests in our bodies. I’m as likely to seek out actual trees as the next Druid, but do I really need to get out of my head?

The thing is, I rather like the inside of my head. I like meditation and contemplation, philosophy and study. These are all things it is reasonable to associate with historical Druidry. I like to think. I reject all suggestions that thinking makes us less emotional or less authentic. I also, after some consideration, reject the idea that time spent in my head is disembodied, disconnected from nature or otherwise undesirable.

My brain is a squishy lump of biology full of blood and chemicals that are also part of the rest of my body. What happens in my brain affects my body. It’s also the key organ for responding to experiences of the natural world, the seasons and the numinous. I’m a thinking creature, that is my nature. I want to have a considered relationship with the natural world and that’s a head issue.

When ‘spiritual’ people talk about the ills of not being embodied, they are usually talking about other people, and how they read and interpret other people’s actions. It’s a perspective that doesn’t take into account the realities of many people’s lives. Rushing about, eating badly, not exercising enough – these things are all symptoms of a capitalist society that makes inhuman demands on the human body, and especially on the bodies of the poor and sick. It’s easy to sit back and judge other people, but it tends not to be kind or helpful. If you aren’t exhausted and time poor then you have privileges.

Being really present in your body isn’t a lot of fun if your body hurts. The ableism around this can be horrendous. I’ve been told that my physical pain is the result of me not being embodied enough – if only I paid more attention to my body, it would hurt less! It took me a while to recognise that this is cruel and unhelpful, and does not reflect my lived experience. Some days the best thing to do is try not to show up for the pain, and I’m hardly alone in this.

For the person who can, and who wants to follow a path centred on being embodied – excellent. The problems arise when we start to assume that one way of being in the world is superior to another, regardless of circumstance. Other people are making the best choices they can based on their circumstances. If you want other people to live embodied healthy(on your terms) lives, then campaign for better working conditions, better welfare support, more green urban spaces, better healthcare for chronic conditions and so forth. Don’t make individual people feel spiritually inadequate because of the systemic pressures they are experiencing.

We’re all embodied. We all have bodies. Some of us like to think more than others do. Some of us find joy in movement and for some of us that’s only ever going to hurt. There should be room for difference. It’s better to have diversity in how people approach their lives rather than to create hierarchies of spiritual superiority, and so often what’s put forward as spiritually superior turns out to be forms of privilege.


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.