Tag Archives: defeat

Druidry and Despair

One of the things I really appreciate about Druidry is there’s nothing inherent in it that will kick me when I’m down. There’s no ‘like attracts like’ philosophy. There’s no sense that suffering and difficulty are a result of bad karma, past life activities or lack of spiritual effort.

There are two places a Druid can look for spiritual guidance. There’s the literature pertaining to the Celts – the folklore and myths of Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and arguably also England and France. There’s the natural world. Both of these sources will demonstrate to you that life can be a bit shit. There isn’t always any justice, people do not get what they deserve. Tragedy happens. The Gods do what they do and cannot be counted on to make life easy for you. Death, decay, misery and suffering are part of nature, these things will happen to you. Cycles are natural, and that means not everything can be great all the time. There’s also the history we get from the Romans, and there’s nothing in that to suggest any kind of toxic positivity in ancient Druidry.

Feeling despair means I am not feeling Druid-fail. I can dwell on all the stories in which people do terrible, stupid things and/or have terrible and stupid things happen to them. It’s not just me. Rhiannon faced loss and terrible injustice, so did Branwen. Blodeuwedd and Macha do not get good deals.  Follow any story far enough and everyone dies. The question is not whether things will be awful and tragic – because they will, sooner or later. The question is whether we can manage to be heroic, poetic, glorious, and unique regardless, or because of the things that will cut us down.

My Druidry reminds me that if I feel I have nothing else, there’s always the option of strapping myself to the stone to keep fighting. If winning isn’t an option, there are still important questions to be asked about how you want to lose, and how you want to be seen as you go under. There’s always the scope to inspire and encourage others by putting up a fight, and by trying to do something glorious, poetic and heroic with the hand you’ve been dealt, no matter how shitty it is. And sometimes, figuring out how to fail heroically is as good as it gets, and it is better than failing in sad, boring and mundane ways.

I’ve lost my way this week. I’ve lost my sense of trajectory – a fledgling thing I’d only found this year. Epic things had been happening to me that were shifting my sense of self and I may have lost that too. I have lost inspiration that was essential to me, and I may never get that back. I can’t tell if this is a small setback, or a tragic ending that would be entirely recognisable to my ancestors of tradition.

The thing about strapping yourself to a rock to keep fighting, is that it imagines keeping fighting does some good. While you can stay upright, rescue remains possible. Something could happen, something could change. Even while expecting defeat, it’s an action that invites other possibilities, right up until the last breath.

Despair is not an obstacle to carrying on as a Druid. Defeat is not an obstacle – the Druidry the Romans defeated survived to at least some degree in story and myth. Something remains. Something lives on. Dying away is part of the cycle, I can enter those spaces, Druidry and all. I do not have to be happy to continue as a Druid. I do not have to be hopeful or brave, or believe anything much so long as I am prepared to keep going with something. This week has taken me to some difficult places, and the awareness that I might have to accept living there for an uncertain amount of time. Potentially for the rest of my life. I will tie myself to the rock and keep standing for as long as I can.


Against a dark background

On Friday I saw a memorably dramatic rainbow – the consequence of especially strong light against a really black storm cloud. The vivid colours owed everything to that combination. This is often the case. The combination of sunlight and cloud shadow at play across the hills creates the most dramatic views. It’s the clouds that make the sunsets rich and memorable too. Take out the darkness, and light on its own often doesn’t make a lot of sense.

This is one of the themes at play in Personal Demons, and Hopeless Maine generally. The light shows up better against a dark background. This is a literal truth with regards to the art – the glows, moons and magical lights are so much more vivid when there’s contrast. (www.hopelessmaine.com if you have no idea what I’m talking about). It’s true from a writing point of view as well. It’s difficult showing off courage, heroism or integrity to good effect if the setting is in pastel shades and mostly fluffy. The deeper the darkness, the more brightly lights shine in contrast to it.

Fiction is not the same as real life though. I am currently tempted to get that tattooed onto my forehead, because the inability of people who ought to know better to get their heads round this one is driving me crazy. Again. Fiction has narrative shapes and a coherence that life frequently lacks. On second thoughts, can I please be allowed to tattoo the words ’fiction is not the same as real life’ onto the forehead of the next person who hits me with this rubbish? Gah. Moving on…

In fiction seeing those contrasts between light and dark is rewarding. It emphasises story and character. Mostly in real life, experiencing the contrasts is an absolute bitch and I for one would be happy to give it a miss more days than not. Yes, the compassion of some shines out a lot brighter for the background of everything else. Yes, the wisdom of some shines forth in just the same way. Yes, I have a growing perspective on the difference, and no, I did not really want any of the dark half of the experiences that have shaped my opinion. I’d have been quite happy going through able to trust and think well of most people. It’s that old innocence/experience quandary again. I miss the state of innocence when I believed that the world was a better sort of place.

What I want is the world I used to believe existed, where trust was not the province of the naïve, greed was not good, and trying to do the right things for the right reasons counted for something. A world in which truth is respected, and people respect themselves enough to want to be truthful. A world in which money is not the be all and end all, and power is used to help, not to abuse.

And on that day, Satan will very likely be skating to work.
I keep coming back to the same issue, that I have choice, and I am not utterly powerless. That whole ‘be the difference’ mantra often seems to be an exercise in seeing how many different ways I can get myself kicked. But if I give up, I have given up and accepted that I can do nothing. I’m still not willing to do that, even though I am bone weary of the metaphorical bloody noses and rounds of getting crushed. I am so tired today, and so short of inspiration, and I feel like the cold has got right into my bones, and into my soul and the darkness of winter before me seems long and harsh too. But I’m not giving up. I’m not going to do anything of any great use today, I suspect, but just holding the idea, the possibility of getting up again and having another go is better than admitting defeat.

There are often more storm clouds than there are moments of beautiful light and glorious rainbows, but there are moments of glorious light and beautiful rainbows, and that is going to have to be enough.