Tag Archives: druid history

Official book release day!

Although Intelligent Designing for Amateurs has been available in the UK for a couple of weeks now, this is official release day, and amazon.com will now let you get paper copies. http://www.amazon.com/Intelligent-Designing-Amateurs-Nimue-Brown/dp/1780999526/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369989320&sr=8-1&keywords=intelligent+designing+for+amateurs (and just to confuse everyone, is now saying the release date was the 16th May. Go figure!)

Just to tempt you a bit, here’s one of the bits that owes a lot to revival Druids. It was whilst reading Ronald Hutton’s ‘Blood and Mistletoe’ that it occurred to me that actual history of revival Druidry seems a lot like a Monty Python sketch, with the costumes, titles, claims of ancientness. Which led me to this…

The parlour was overfull of familiar and overdressed women when Justina and her mother were shown in. She looked around despondently, taking in the grotesque excess of decoration on women far too old to carry such girlish extravagance. They clucked and preened like so many hens, the bulk of their skirts filling up the spaces between closely packed items of furniture. Why it was felt desirable to squeeze so many warmly dressed people into such a confined space, Justina had never understood. It was one of the features of her life that had greatly hampered her social development – she simply did not enjoy being pressed against a large number of other people in the confines of heavily furnished rooms.

A gentleman with exceptional moustaches leapt at once to his feet. He appeared to be wearing a white night gown with rather elaborate embroidery at the collar and cuffs. Seeing him only increased the terrible urge she had been feeling to scream, and run away. Before she could plan an escape, Mrs. Easlefeet hurried forwards to make introductions.

“Ah, my dear, my dear, I must present this young lady to you,” she began.

Justina loathed her for that. The person of greater social status was asked first, and she could not, possibly, be of lesser consideration than a man who went about in public in a nightgown?
“This is Justina Fairfax, dear Elizobella’s daughter. Justina, this is none other than the ArchDruid Henry Caractacus Morestrop Jones!”

As Mrs. Easelfeet continued with an incomprehensible list of further titles, ArchDruid Henry indulged in some complex hand maneuvering and offered her his services.

“Founder of the Brotherhood of Restrained Enlightenment, and current leader of the Truly Venerable Order of English Druids,” he added.

Justina took a few careful steps backwards whilst saying, “How charming.” She had only encountered Druids once before, at a meeting of the Society of Archaeology an Antiquities. A lecture about whether the Romans might have constructed on Stonehenge had been disrupted by a man, dressed entirely in clothes made from the skins of very small mammals. He had entered without invitation, stood upon a table, waved a sword about and made a wholly unfathomable speech about classical geometry at ancient sites.

Just as she as paused to flee this current scene of dismay, Mrs Fairfax commenced exalting Justina’s many virtues as an antiquarian scholar. With her reputation the new topic of conversation, escape seemed less appealing.

“I myself have a great interest in the ancient times,” the strangely dressed man announced. He had the kind of voice that would even whisper loudly. “The Truly Venerable Order of English Druids has written records going back to before even the Roman invasion. Our oldest manuscripts are known to be the work of Taliesin himself.”

He paused, and Justina knew she was supposed to be impressed by his claims. Certainly such documents had the power to re-write English history, and that made her very suspicious. It was amazing how many bored gentlemen and obscure vicars turned out to have ancient manuscripts stashed in their attics.

My love affair with Ronald Hutton

I should begin by saying this is an entirely intellectual consideration and, so far as I know, quite entirely one sided! It began years ago with The Pagan Religions of the British Isles (can’t recall the exact title, but that’s the gist.) Stations of the Sun, confirmed me in my infatuation and I’ve been collecting the good Professor’s pagan books ever since.

There are many things I love about Ronald Hutton’s writing. His uncertainty is incredible. So much writing in all subjects is about asserting theories and showing how the evidence supports it. To read work that picks through the evidence and talks about the limits and inadequacies was a revelation for me. The very notion of uncertainty has become intrinsic to my own Druidry, and to how I think about a lot of things.

Ronald Hutton is present in his own work, in a way many academic writers aren’t. He’s not afraid to say ‘I’ and drop in personal takes, as personal takes, moments of insight and other details that lift the content out of the dry, dusty norms of academia and make it a lot more readable. I read a lot, I read widely, and I’ve crawled through many a book that claimed objective certainty. I’d rather have a sense of person and some sense of who I’m dealing with.

I love the humour. Often cutting, sometimes downright catty, there aren’t many historians who have ever made me laugh out loud. It’s a subtle sort of humour, a tad subversive, and utterly delightful.

Then I read Blood and Mistletoe. Ronald Hutton going in-depth on the history of the Druids. It was a hard read. Like many people, I came to Druidry wanting there to be a clear connection between Druidry old and new. I wanted there to be ancient wisdom, and certainty, and I wanted someone to know what it was, even if I didn’t. This book systematically stripped away many things that I had wanted to believe, and then presented the Monty Pythonesque insanity of the revival Druid movement. Reading it, and for some time afterwards, I felt lost. Where did I fit now? What did it all mean? How do I call myself a Druid and keep doing something that has meaning, in the context of all this uncertainty and more recent embarrassment?

The need to answer Blood and Mistletoe pretty much prompted me to take up the work that led to me writing Druidry and the Ancestors. I did get to swap a few emails with Ronald Hutton as I was working. I didn’t end up asking him to read the whole book because he was clearly very pressed for time, and I didn’t want to impose. He did say nice things about the bit I ran past him, for which I was hugely grateful, and it gave me the courage to keep going with what was a very difficult project.

He remains my hero.

Adventures in writing Druidry

When I started druidlife it was as a column over at thewww.paganandthenpen.wordpress.com and eventually I took the plunge to go it alone. But, I started with the idea of writing about my life, as a druid. Somewhat nervously. Rather expecting people would drop round to tell me I was doing it all wrong, that I shouldn’t be calling myself a druid etc etc. It wasn’t entirely paranoia, the journey to here has been an odd one.

But there hasn’t been much of that. One troll, who was a personal troll and not some random internet acquisition. Not bad going really, some 300 and more posts on.

When I’m writing the non-fiction, I’m very conscious that druidry is a big, diverse thing full of people who don’t agree with me. I like this about druidry. It keeps us all on our toes. But it means that if I venture a ‘druids do this’ then I risk putting a misleading thought form into the world, and I also risk the manifestation of angry people who want to correct me. My main strategy is to focus on what I do. I use phrases like ‘some druids’ and ‘druids I have met’ and other such ways of leaving room for all the stuff I don’t know about and all the people who do it differently. Years of feedback have taught me, I think, to be careful about my exact phrasing. I’m very grateful to all of the people who have poked and prodded, reminded me of the diversity and generally kept me straight. I still have moments of making generalisations, or not being clear enough in what I say… it’s a work in progress.

Blogging is one thing. There’s a temporary, fleeting quality to a blog that makes me feel ok about it being a work in progress. Books have a far more permanent quality to them. Stepping up as a blogger, I’m just a druid writing about life, but to be an author is far more about claiming some kind of Authority. That makes me nervous. Now, book the first was fairly easy because I was writing off the back of years of experience meditating, running groups, using meditation in ritual and workshops and so forth. I knew what I was talking about, I knew the subject hadn’t been covered by anyone else, I felt fairly easy about sticking my head up and going ‘oi, world, I know some stuff that might possibly be helpful’. And so Druidry and Meditation was born. Book the second will be out in November. It’s got history in it, and I am not a ‘proper’ historian. It’s got all kinds of reflections on what it means to be a druid, where we’ve come from, where we might be going. I’ve tried to hold that open, inclusive blog voice, but I have a lot of strong opinions, and there’s every chance people are not all going to like this one.

But all this pales into insignificance when compared with what I’ve just done on the fiction side. I’ve got a novel with comedy Druids in it. I’ve tested it on some non-druids and they liked it. But, basically, I’m taking the piss. What I’ve written bears some resemblance to the sillier bits of our history and almost no relation to what we modern folk get up to. I think. It’s going to be interesting if I turn out to be wrong on that score!

The thing about druid books, and druid blogs is that I can assume the audience is probably more pagan than not, and knows me as one small voice amongst many. Fiction works in very different ways. I can’t make the same assumptions about the audience, and, I’m taking the piss.

I gather there are some druids who go in for excommunicating other druids (don’t ask me how that works, it’s not my idea of how to be a druid). But, I find myself asking, have I gone too far? Will I get excommunicated by someone? And if so, is it going to be the history, or the piss taking that lands me in most trouble?

Watch this space…