Tag Archives: ancestors of land

Druidry and Identity

Druidry gives me a context for my sense of self. It teaches me that I am not separate from nature. I am part of the landscape I live in, and that landscape is also part of me. I am influenced not only by my ancestors of blood, but also by the ancestors who were in this landscape before me. I have chosen my ancestors of tradition – either as specific individuals, or as part of the traditions I engage with. This all contributes to my sense of self.

From the historical/Celtic side of Druidry I am gifted the importance of creativity, honour, courage and loyalty. I have done my best to weave these attributes into who I am, by making them part of how I do things. From the spiritual side of Druidry I get the call to service, the practice of gratitude, and honouring the natural world in my everyday life. Animism informs how I interact with the world.

I’ve been exploring Druidry for nearly two decades now, and a lot of it is in me and has become part of who I am. It’s also given me the focus to work on unpicking my actual self from the consequences of abuse, from ancestral wounding, family stories and the impact of the culture I live in. I have a lot of work to do still. Trying to find my authentic self amidst conditioning, cultural training, societal pressures, internalised patriarchy and colonialism…

This year has done an array of things to my sense of self. I’ve been able to test things that were only ever ideas before, and have found that who I thought I might be in the right context, is real. I’ve reclaimed my intuition and some sense of enchantment. I’ve gone back to beliefs that I had lost. I’ve become more aware of myself as someone with some very specific intellectual needs and have started trying to work out how to deal with that. I’m also having aspects of my sense of self knocked about by early stages of the menopause, by pain, stiffness, exhaustion and body challenges. I had my heart broken in a thorough, self altering sort of way and I still don’t know how to move past that or who I am in face of it.

Identity is not a fixed thing. We grow and change all the time – and much like trees, we put down our rings of memory for each year and grow, and sometimes we make stags heads and die back. We are cut down, and re-sprout from whatever is left. Or don’t. One thing that Druidry has certainly taught me is that I am a lot more able to be kind to myself if I think of myself as being like a tree.

Ancestors of Land

I talked a bit earlier this week about the relationship between Druidry and the Ancestors and Beyond the Map in terms of experiencing blood family. Ancestors of Land are also a connecting thread. We honour them in ritual, and they are whoever happened to be on the land before us. I have a keen sense of many ancestors in my current location. The canal was built, and there are ancestors of the boating life too. Go back far enough and this landscape would have been marshy. It has yielded evidence of ancient settlement. Listening to the wind in the rushes, kayaking, I have a sense of those first people who lived alongside the Severn, hunted the wild birds, and put some of their own dead in barrows on the hillsides. I’ve become conscious of how walkable the Severn vale is, and how, if there was no motorway, the journey from river to hill would be feasible.

This landscape is full of hints about ancestors. Having read Oliver Rackham’s book on the history of the British landscape, I had some ideas about things to look for, but they were broad and general. Then a thing happened. Tom and I were walking down the towpath to get to one of the places I can download email, and I saw a chap with a map in hand, looking out across the fields. There’s a footpath down towards the river, but it’s not as well signposted as would be ideal. I’ve stopped and talked to walkers many times about where the path goes. So I stopped and asked if he was looking for the aforementioned.
He wasn’t.

He had come down to look at a particularly old landscape feature indicative of former settlement, and explained to me how to read the humps and bumps in the fields. The enclosure around a settlement or farm means lower land levels on the inside as the river dumps soil round the outside. He told me how the New Grounds had been deposited by the river in mediaeval times, leading to court cases about who actually owned the land. An actual, real to goodness land historian, on my towpath, talking about my landscape. He was a tad self-effacing but after enthusing at him we managed to elicit both a name, and the critical information that he writes books. I’ve now got one of them – Gloucestershire 300 Years ago. The author is Alan Pilbeam and he’s written a few. He has an accessible writing style and an eye to the implications, so that the political and power shifts he thinks of in terms of ordinary people, too. So many of our ancestors exist as a silence in the historical record, a reasoned attempt to put some of them back in, is a wonderful thing. There’s a lot of detail about things you can go and observe, including pointers to ancient Pagan sites. It’s wonderful stuff.

To the handful of Gloucestershire Druids and for that matter non-Druids who read my stuff, I can only say hunt out this man’s work, it is brilliant. I don’t know who else is doing this other places, but if you can find any, do. There’s nothing like being able to look at the bumps in the ground and know what they mean and who was there, and why…

Druidry at the end of history – part 4

First one is here, https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/druidry-end-of-history-part-1others are on the blog so if you landed on this one first, the history category is your friend!

Now we finally get round to the Druid bit of the title. At this point it would be nice if I could tell you how Druidry is the magic cure for everything and the solution to any risk of ending the world. It isn’t. Not on its own, at any rate. However, there is one concept from Druidry that I think could make a big contribution here, and that’s the concept of ancestry. Mostly because ancestry carries within it the idea that we too will eventually be ancestors. The answer to the end of history, is to be an ancestor of the future. In fact, if we don’t implode for 2012, we are bound to be ancestors of the future.

Even if we choose to have children, they might not reproduce. There are no guarantees that our blood lines will carry us forwards. Think about how much you know of your own blood ancestors. History teaches us that blood ancestry gets forgotten, unless you’re a King. Famous people may be remembered by their descendents, but that’s all about the being famous. Generations of quiet, uneventful lives disappear, forgotten. Staking your immortality on blood descendents is a dead loss. However, in terms of future impact, bloodlines should be the least of our concerns. That whole business with kinds and inheritance has slewed our culture towards prioritising blood ancestry and directed our perspective away from where the real influence lies.

We are all going to be ancestors of land. Every last one of us.  We’re making a future landscape every day out of our choices. The things we send to landfill. The roads that are built for us. The buildings we live and work in. The power stations we demand. Ancestors of waste and pollution. Ancestors of nuclear dumps and widespread extinctions. Ancestors of poisoned rivers and toxic farming methods. We are all part of this. It is our culture, our society, our motorways and our poison. Future generations will be hard put to forget us, because they’re going to have to live with our rubbish piles, depressing architecture and al the long term consequences of our short term thinking. Ancestors of land. What will the future make of us?

Take up that title, and the full horror of what it means should, if you are paying attention, put you on your knees and break your heart. Ours is the generation that has lost the Chinese river dolphins. We are not going to be the beloved ancestors of future Druids at this rate. We’re going to be the villains of the story.

I offer this not to demoralise you, but as a challenge. The enormity of all that is wrong out there can make action seem futile. It isn’t. The most important thing is to believe that your bit makes a difference. It does. Even the smallest choice counts. Every round of doing more and taking less, every move towards greater sustainability, helps. Be part of the solution. Be a heroic ancestor of the future.