Tag Archives: druid life

Druid Life – a blog about a blog

Readers, I have done a thing! As of yesterday, this blog site is advert-free. Having used wordpress for the best part of a decade, I’ve taken the leap and started paying for it.

While I greatly appreciate the many free things available online, I do also believe in paying for things that you value so that the people who make them can keep making them. I really like wordpress and it has helped me greatly as a blogger. I’m in a place where I can give back to them by paying for my blog, so I’m doing that.

The reason I feel able to pay for my blog is, quite simply, Patreon. The support I have there means I feel confident about making this change. I know that much of that support is as a consequence of people liking my blog, so it makes sense to pay that back by making this blog a better space for readers.

And honestly, I do not like adverts. I have no doubt that adverts distort our priorities, infect our longing with consumerism and contribute significantly to our unsustainable behaviour. Apparently free things are often paid for by adverts. It’s worth noting that even on sites like youtube where content creators can benefit from ad revenue, most creators don’t as the bar for getting funds is set high and the money per view is a pittance. It’s not the way forward.

So, I’m glad to get adverts off this site. I won’t be replacing them with adverts of my own, or directly monetizing this blog in any way. I will occasionally plug the stuff I’m doing and stuff that I like but that’s as far as it will go.

If there are topics you’d like to see me explore, or questions you’d like me to try and answer, jump into the comments section. If I can come up with something potentially useful, I’ll do my best.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for going on this journey with me. Thank you everyone who has subscribed and thus encouraged me to feel that this blog is worth investing energy in each day. Thank you if you’ve supported me on Patreon or Ko-Fi. Thank you if you’ve shared links or re-blogged me or otherwise given freely of your time and energy. I believe in free things, and gift economy and sharing, and I also believe that everyone should be able to afford to live, and that there are balances to strike.


Taking Druid Life Forward

I’ve been thinking for a while now about what’s next for Druid Life. What I’d really like to do is pay for a package for this blog, and for my Hopeless Maine blog – www.hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com.The main aim of this would be to get rid of the ads.

What I’m not going to do is then monetise either blog by putting my own ad stream in. I’d very much like to make this a less commercial space. It’s not prohibitively expensive to do this. But, I’m not earning vast sums of money, so it’s a move that would bring an extra cost for me.

I’m in the middle of a big financial re-think at the moment anyway. Some of my personal aims have shifted dramatically in the last month or so, and this will help me afford to make changes here. I’m aiming for January.

However, if you’d like to help me improve the quality of the blog and make it a better experience, there is Patreon. I’ve set my target at $200 a month for this project. Please note that the increase from what people currently give would do a lot more than cover the cost of getting ads off my sites. But also please note that I’ve every intention of cracking on with this whether I hit the funding goal or not.

Patreon is very much about reciprocal relationships. Money donated via the site helps me afford to work creatively and to dig in more with the Druidry. It helps me give stuff away and I like the principle of making a lot of my work freely available. It also means that, moving forward, I could pay for things that would allow me to give more effectively – as with getting ads off this blog. I’m open to suggestions about what form that might take.

Patreon levels start at $1 with rewards at that level upwards.  https://www.patreon.com/NimueB

Every Day Druidry

Part of the idea when I started this blog and called it Druid Life, was to look at lived Druidry and how Druidry impacts on what I do in the rest of my life. This is one of the reasons I write about a whole array of things that perhaps at first glance don’t seem very Druidic at all.

For me, Druidry is what we do all the time, not just at the festivals. It’s about the approach and the process, the underlying logic. It’s about the willingness to reflect, question and delve deeper. It’s the willingness to bring philosophical ideas into everyday life, to bring spiritual values into things that are not overtly spiritual.

The problem with this, is that I’ve found it’s easy to lose the sense of the Druidry even while trying to live the Druidry. My Druidry is about the choices I make in my working life, about activism and education. It is green living choices, and what I do creatively, and what I do to nurture and support others in their creativity. I bring my Druidry to volunteering for The Woodland Trust, and I’m bringing it to the Transition network locally, and I take it into pubs and make spaces for people to follow their inspiration.

These are not things to do while wearing robes. Not that I’ve ever been one for the robes. I’ve come to see this year how much ritual spaces and overtly Pagan and Druid spaces do to affirm a person as Being A Proper Druid or whatever they are being. Seeing ourselves recognised by other people on the same path is affirming, and helpful.

There are days when I can’t see the Druidry for the trees. I see the trees a lot. I see the wildlife. I walk. I’m closer to the patterns of light and dark than I have ever been, closer to this land than I have ever been. And yet when I see photos of all the proper Druids at Druid gatherings, I feel like an outsider. A fake. A wannabe. I question, over and over whether ‘druid’ is a word I should use, or have any entitlement to. I stay with it in no small part because I have no idea what to call the blog instead and there’s some comfort in being able to identify as something.

When you make something part of your life, it becomes less self announcing. The difference between a long term marriage and the first excited flush of a new relationship. The difference between starting a new exercise or diet plan, and having a healthy lifestyle. We notice the new, the unfamiliar, and we notice the things we have to really consciously work at. That which is embedded in life can be less visible even as we’re doing it. Equally, that which is an every day thing can be a taken for granted thing. It’s easy to say ‘my work is my prayer’ and that be an empty, meaningless statement. The work is only the prayer if you’re really doing it.

And so I pause every now and then and ask where the Druidry is in my life. What is my Druidry? What does it mean? What does it do? How does it manifest? What am I learning, making, changing? What am I dedicating to? Where am I needed? Sometimes I don’t really know what any of the answers are. It’s ok not to know.

When I started on the Druid path, it seemed that the Druid path was many paths through a vast an ancient forest. Perhaps the forest itself was Druidry. I saw many fellow travellers, I walked well worn routes. I knew where I was because there were plenty of signposts.

Right now I have no sense of there being a Druid path beneath my feet. No sense of direction, no signposts. No one waving to me from the next path over. Just quiet, and stillness and trees, and I cannot tell if this is because I have entirely lost my way, or because I have arrived somewhere.

Where is my Druidry?

Back when I was working on ‘When a Pagan Prays’ it struck me that it’s very easy to fall into a ‘my work is my prayer’ mentality, where there’s no real truth in the assertion. If my life is my Druidry, and my Druidry is intrinsic to my everyday life, then I am equally at risk of just doing whatever occurs to me and having no discernible Druidry in the mix at all. What makes it a Druid life?

I don’t have a fixed daily practice. I don’t have an altar at the moment. I’m not honouring any deities. I’ve felt for the last six months or so that my Druidry was in flux, and I’m entirely easy with that – it’s happened before and I both expect and hope that it will continue to happen.

I’ve lost several key community spaces this year – Druid Camp, and the Contemplative Druid meetings. I have become much more involved with a bardic community, which goes well with my desire to reconnect with and re-commit to the bardic path. I’ve invested more time in divination (I may be back to write about this in more detail) and as ever, walking, and being present in the world are a big part of what I do. My service has shifted – I’m no longer volunteering for OBOD, but am giving my time to The Woodland Trust instead. Last year there were more seasonal rituals than I’ve had for years, and I mean to carry on with that.

I don’t know where I am, I’m not entirely sure where or if I fit, and that’s fine. I don’t know where I’m going – there’d be no fun in it if I did. Journeys into land and story, maps and labyrinths, dreams and possibilities are part of my sense of trajectory, but I’ve no real plan. I’m open to what comes, waiting to see where the awen takes me.

The Pagan and The Pen

Druid Life started as a column on a wordpress blog for Pagan authors – https://thepaganandthepen.wordpress.com/ . When I started I half expected the Pagan Police to show up and tell me I wasn’t allowed to do it. Impostor syndrome is a bit of an ongoing issue for me. I angsted over the title, worrying that this would sound too definitive, too dogmatic. On the whole, I think I’ve got away with it. For various reasons, the column became and almost every day thing. I felt a bit out of kilter with some of what was happening at the site, and founder C.S. Scarlett left. I followed her a little while later and set this up instead. This was all about five years ago.

Then out of the blue this year, C.S. Scarlett got in touch with me. The Pagan and The Pen had fallen by the wayside. No one had posted to it for several years. Could I still get in? I could. We reclaimed it, and restarted it. There followed a lot of spring cleaning, removing the reams of book promo. It’s a problem with inexperienced authors – the temptation to use something successful as an easy way to flog books. What you end up with is wall to wall book promotions and no actual readers. It’s been great fun seeing who wanted to come back, and what could be re-thought.

I’m doing a few things. I’ll be putting up monthly book news – a single post for the releases of new Pagan titles. Contact me if you have something you’d like me to share. We’re doing one post a month, or so, of reviews – again all Pagan titles, picked out by in house reviewer Cosmic Dancer. I’m also looking after the monthly featured artist column, and for the first month of me doing this, I featured Jacqui Lovesey from Matlock the Hare – you can read that here – https://thepaganandthepen.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/jacqui-lovesey-artist-and-illustrator/

Also on The Pagan and the Pen – daily festivals from ancient calendars, herb lore, Sheena Cundy’s music column, Laura Perry writing about Minoan spirituality, and no doubt more as we get into the swing of it. I’ve wanted a project like this for a while – heavy on lifestyle, community and creativity, with multiple contributors. There are a few other collective Pagan sites out there – Patheos Pagan site, Witches and Pagans, Sage Woman… but I think this one has enough of its own style to contribute.

Starting a Grove

This summer I move off the boat, and one consequence of that is starting to come into focus for me. I’m not in a position to travel much for Druid gatherings, and want there to be something very local. There are things going on in my area – open rituals, moots, and I’ve looked into those a bit, which has got me to the point of feeling that we aren’t over saturated with groups, and that no one is doing what I want to do: Namely to have an experimental and teaching Grove.

I’ve been involved with running groups before, and one thing I’ve learned is the importance of figuring out a few things before-hand. Shape of group, aims, location, frequency of meetings, methods of communication… get these right and the whole thing can flow well and needs little energy to keep it moving. A badly set up group can use up a lot of time to little effect. I have to be careful with my time and energy, so am starting to plan months in advance.

I know I am not going to get into something democratic. In practice it doesn’t work, more time is spent discussing than doing. If I’m running a thing, I will do so as a benevolent dictator, and on my own terms. People can either go along with that, or do some other thing. Groups work better where there’s some maker of final decisions and where it’s clear who holds responsibility. I’m the sort of dictator who isn’t keen to do any more work than is absolutely necessary, so always have space for people who want to do things, and for the ideas of people who come along with good ideas. I’ve learned it’s useful to feel able to say ‘no’ though, and that’s not easy if you’re supposed to be being democratic.

The other thing I know at this stage, is that I’m not going to focus on the usual 8 festivals. Partly because plenty of others in viable striking distance are doing rituals at the eight usual times, so it’s going to be easier to go along to theirs and I don’t want to run in competition to anything local. I spent a lot of years with a group doing the big 8, and felt an increasing need to get away from that, a desire to explore different stories, and to develop a different kind of relationship with the turning year. The desire for experimental Druidry is very much in my mind as I consider how to progress.

I need to find a space. I have a location in mind that should give me accessible open space, ancestral connections and a pub in viable striking distance. I will have to pin it down more precisely, and look at the transport issues. As I’m not yet sure who else might want to show up or where they might be coming from, I’m not sure what to be looking for, but some accessibility by public transport is definitely an issue. I also need to look at the feasibility of access for people who are not so mobile. Child friendliness is a consideration too. I don’t want a setup that automatically excludes anyone.

I need to find a name, but that might be easier once I have a location sorted. Once that comes, I can set up some kind of online space for ease of communication, and open the idea up. I anticipate I’m a good few months away from being able to do any of that. Rather a lot will then depend on who wants to come along, what they bring, and what they ask of me. I’ve spent nearly three years now as something like a hermit, largely out of the loop. I’ve learned a lot, and one of the things I’ve learned is how much I appreciate the rhythms of being part of an active Druid community that gets outside and does stuff.

I’m envisaging something fairly small, and fairly intensive, but we shall see. I’ll blog more about this as it develops. It’s not the only big upheaval I’m anticipating in my Druid Life, as I’m poised to jump with something else that has a lot of potential to be dramatic and interesting too. I’ll post more about that once I know what’s happening. Watch this space.

Unpicking the myths of inspiration

In theory, part of druid life is the quest for inspiration. For followers of the bard path, inspiration is necessarily intrinsic to what we do. I was grumbling on facebook the other day because a subset of people respond to the fact that I write by assuming I am in desperate need of subject matter. In the past, a few people have been really pushy trying to get me to take up what they thought were great ideas. They were only trying to help, but it wasn’t at all helpful, more irritating. I’m conscious that for people who are not perpetually questing after inspiration, the whole process may be a mystery. I also don’t think it needs to be. I write almost every day – here, and creating works of fiction, and non-fiction. So, where do I get my ideas from?

This morning I listened to half an hour of news, which included a number of provocative ideas. What I saw on the school run I could lavishly describe. On facebook, I caught up with friends and heard some exciting personal stories. It’s not 10am yet as I write this, and already the day has offered more raw material than I can use. I have all of the internet to play in, radio stations, books, friends, outdoors… and anything that I encounter could potentially be the seed from which to grow a story, a poem, or a blog. The problem is not finding inspiration. The problem is considering all the many possible sources of inspiration and choosing which ones to work with. I can’t use all of them. Some of them will undoubtedly be more powerful than others, or more relevant to projects already under way.

I begin by thinking about what has the most personal resonance – what has provoked the most thinking or feeling, or both, in me. Some days that’s enough to focus me down. However, I always pause at this point to ask what might be relevant, or resonant to someone else. Bleeding on the page may feel cathartic, but that’s about all it’s good for. So there’s a process of working with the raw responses, imagining an audience and trying to guess what someone else might get some useful mileage out of. That usually gets me to a blog post.

The longer works are more complex because I’m dealing with a theme, a narrative, and something already set up. I can’t just pluck ideas out of the air and shoehorn them in. They have to fit with the ideas already in use. I may be reading and researching to support a project, in which case I’ll be sifting for resonant ideas as I go. I may be drawing on content I’ve already explored. However, I never plan too much in advance. I get bored too easily. If I plot out a novel or pin down the exact content ofa  book, the chances of my finishing it are slim. For novel, I have a shape in my head, and for non-fiction I’ll have a structure of title chapters laying out what ground I mean to cover, but that can change. Working this way allows projects to evolve organically and lets me bring in inspiration as it comes.

I spend a lot of time working on books when I’m walking, cycling or being domesticated. If I have nothing practical to do, staring out of the window is good. This is the time I use to sift through what I know, what I think, and imagine, and work out which bits hang together, and resonate with each other. I’m looking for exciting juxtapositions, ways of relating ideas to each other, things I can knock against each other to create something new.

Every moment of life has the potential to inspire us. The raw material is everywhere. The experience of awen for me, is less about perceiving the individual things that might inspire, more about finding a flow and rhythm that brings ideas into relationship with each other. That’s where the magic happens. It’s a deliberately sought and worked-for magic. It has to be fed. Being open to experience and aware of all the things that could inspire, is essential. But it’s the flow that turns random experience and disparate facts into something both new and meaningful. Seeing how to weave threads of ideas into a new fabric. It’s no good grabbing the first couple of ideas for a book that come passed. I reject far more ideas than I use. I have enough material in my head to create a novel most weeks. I don’t, because I’m not merely trying to write, I want to write the very best that I can.

I love it when people share experiences, ideas and inspiration with me. But please, don’t look round your living room frantic for any small thing that can be fed in. It’s not necessary.

In pursuit of unconscious druidry

The proof of having mastered a thing, is frequently unconsciousness. By this I do not mean lying prone on the floor, but an inability, or lack of necessity to think in detail about what you are doing. I think this as applicable in Druidry as other places, but to explore I’m going to play compare and contrast with music.

No one could hope to play an instrument automatically and without thought. The process involves learning where the notes are and how to make them, how to pull out the best sounds, and getting a few tunes under the fingers. In just the same way you wouldn’t expect to wake up one morning able to unconsciously act as a druid in all things, improvising exquisite ritual and so forth. The measure of transition from learner to master is the ability to do beautiful things without needing to be fully conscious. In fact, at a certain point, trying to think consciously about the process can be a handicap.

The route to this point involves total, considered, conscious involvement with the thing you mean to learn. It’s estimated that it takes about ten thousand hours of serious work to master an instrument. To that end you would devote an hour or more every day. There are some practical advantages with Druidry, because that music practice, or art practice can be part of it. And as druidry is not a specific art, but a spiritual approach to life, it can be attached to anything you are doing. What you need is a conscious approach, every day, to living. As the musician learns the instrument, so the Druid learns life. We study the shape and nature of it, we find out where the particularly druidy bits might be, and how to make the best sounds, and we get life-tunes under our fingers – we learn ritual forms and prayers, we learn ideas and philosophy, correlations between seasons, elements, times of life. The aim of Druidry is to master life as one might a musical instrument, and then to be able to play it exquisitely.

Of course, life pictured as a musical instrument is not the most precise of metaphors. Life as a musical instrument might be more like a sentient bagpipe that sometimes felt hostile towards you.

When I go walking, I don’t have to stop and think about what I should be looking for and picture the idea of spirits of place in the hopes of them communing with them. I have a keen sense of what’s around me and will interact with it without needing to shift gears any more. This is a consequence of having been doing it for a long time, and there was a time when I would step out more consciously and deliberately to look for spirit.

In music, there is no point of finishing. Even when you’ve got to the point of being able to play unconsciously, that’s not the end. I can pick up my violin and jam in on a tune I’ve never heard before, finding harmonies in the moment. That still feels a bit uncanny to me, a bit like magic. But there are also times when I will deliberately deconstruct my own playing, working in a conscious way because I want to improve something. It’s an inevitable part of learning any new tune. If I hear someone else do something I want to be able to copy, I’ll go through the same process. I’ve recently been changing how I use the bow. It means for a while that I don’t play with the same smooth ease, that I become conscious again, but I will return to the unconscious playing when the new technique is mastered, or the tune grasped fully.

I see reasons to approach Druidry in the same way. It is not my aim to disappear into total unconsciousness. Mostly because I don’t imagine I would ever get to the point of being able to do everything with perfect grace and no conscious consideration. There will always be tunes I do not know how to play. Just as I step back now and then to analyse my violin playing and ponder where it could be worked on, so I ponder my druidry. Which part of my life could I make more creative? How could I be more green? Is there anywhere that I’m not acting to the best of my abilities? Is there something I might be able to do now that I could not do before? Experimenting and exploring are conscious processes, from which things can be taken into less conscious use.

I know this blog may have sounded strange to anyone who has been following my work. I talk a great deal about the importance of being fully conscious and knowing what we are doing and why. But unconscious Druidry is no different from unconscious violin playing. You still have to pick up the violin and intend to do it. You still have to engage deliberately. I’m far more able to play the music than I am the druid life, which is also a consideration. Druidically speaking, I am still learning the tunes.