Tag Archives: Druid order

What does a Druid do?

When I first came to Druidry, something like twenty years ago, my sense of what modern Druids did was informed by observation. Clearly the first thing to do was join a Grove and/or a Druid order. Ideally a Grove belonging to the Druid Order. In practice it’s often a lot more complicated of course!

Joining a Grove meant showing up for regular meetings (monthly, for me) and attending festivals through the year. Study and practice was to some degree dictated by the Grove. I also went to bigger Druid gatherings at Avebury and Stonehenge.

It was clear from early on that people came to Druidry with all kinds of different intentions. Some people just wanted a community in which to celebrate the cycles of the seasons. Some were following a specific calling within Druidry – to be bards, or healers, herbalists, activists, and so forth. Some would become ritualists and celebrants and lead groups themselves. There weren’t so many authors back then, but it was clear that writing, speaking at events and teaching were part of what some Druids were called to do. Especially those Druids who were going to be Big Name Druids.

I grasped early on the importance of service and volunteering. I did quite a lot of that, one way and another. Curiously, I also had a strong sense that I should be stepping up. I ended up with a lot of students of my own – as a twenty something proto-Druid it turned out that I knew more myth, folklore, music, magic, meditation and nature stuff than many Pagans who were a lot older than me.  There were a lot of people around me who were entirely new to Paganism and who wanted to learn, and so I stepped up as best I could. I led rituals and workshops and moots and all sorts of things – often because despite being fairly young and not that experienced, I was often the most experienced person to hand.

Doing all the things that might make a person a modern Druid is bloody hard work, though. There are people who make it pay, but I certainly wasn’t one of those.  Over the years, I started to look harder at what of the work made sense to me – I cut back on teaching. I stepped away from celebrant work, which is prohibitively difficult if you don’t drive, and I’m honestly not theatrical enough. I became less interested in leadership roles.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. Many other Druids of my acquaintance seem to have walked a comparable path and are undertaking to Druid in quieter ways, focusing on the bits of the path that truly interest them and not trying to perform a large and complex role. It means diversity, and not so many of the people aspiring to be Big Name folk and not so much emphasis on that. More sharing and conversation, less authority. I like it better.

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out now why twenty-something me thought that aspiring to be a Big Name Druid was even slightly attractive. I knew what kind of level of work was required and I wasn’t averse, back then, to martyring myself, but I was never mercenary enough to make it work financially. I was never pushy enough to take up enough space. I was never that into authority. But, I had a weird feeling it was what I was supposed to be doing. Perhaps at the time, it was what I needed to be aiming for, but I’m a lot more comfortable for having since let go of all that.

Of Order and Druids

I gather that for some people, the apparent orderliness of Druidry is rather off-putting. We may look a tad organised from the outside. Collecting ourselves into something called ‘Orders’, the whiter than white robes (other nature worshippers used band x…) the going around being all intellectual. For those looking in from the outside, Druidry does not suggest chaos.

And yet, Orders beget Groves. Groves of trees are not the most orderly of things. Nature offers us an interesting mixture of apparent order and apparent chaos, and it’s not always easy to tell one form the other, with all due reference to Fibonacci.

Some structure is useful. Some framework for the vine to clamber over. Soil has structure. Wood has structure. It is structure that allows life to function in all its many forms. With too much chaos, mostly what you get is a sloppy wet mess that isn’t going anywhere. But at the same time, too much structure starts to look like crystalline forms, rock strata… there’s something glacial about too much structure. If you get too organised, what results is not moving or growing, because movement and growth are invariably a wee bit chaotic.

I come back to the issue of balance a lot. I think it’s a key part of Druidry. One part of our tradition belongs very much to culture, order, law, civilization and reason. The other part belongs to the wilderness, the wildness of inspiration, the ever changing tides of growth and decay. We need both, and we need to be both. The order in our Druidry needs to be there as a sturdy frame off which to grow the gorgeous rambling roses that are the other part of our Druidry. You get the best wild roses where they have something to hold them up. You get the best icicles where they have something to grow on.

Order, discipline and structure are terms that have become anathema to the more liberal minded. The cry for freedom, ease, and chillaxing doesn’t leave a lot of desire for making a solid framework. And yet we plug ourselves in to all kinds of social frameworks and structures without a moment’s thought. The 9-5 job, school, cultural norms, fashion… these are also frames we can grow ourselves around. Do they liberate us to grow to the best of our ability, or do they restrict us? The frameworks we need are the ones that help. Like the frame of a tent, which won’t otherwise stand up. Like the bones in our body, that give us strength and enable movement.

Although I still think we’re long overdue a Druid Chaos, to balance the Orders up a bit.

Studying Druidry

There are a number of Druid Orders out there offering teaching material. The highest profile are OBOD, ADF and Henge of Keltria, but most Orders make some study material available to students. With the internet, it’s relatively easy to do. Do you need a study course to become a Druid? Maybe.

The advantage of joining a course is that someone else has figured out what to study and often a good order in which to do the work. Being self-taught can mean an awful lot of groping around in the dark trying to figure out what’s relevant, and whether the thing you are doing even counts as Druidry. With courses come mentors, tutors, advisors, people who can tell you how you are doing. For some people that affirmation is really helpful, for others, being in any way subject to authority doesn’t work.

Studying a course means there’s an identifiable set of other Druids who will recognise what you do and with whom you can easily work. You know roughly what they’re going to do. A formal OBOD ritual anywhere in the world will be recognisable to anyone who knows OBOD material, assuming they can handle the language. On the downside, it can tie you into more fixed ways of thinking, a belief that there’s a ‘right way’ to do ritual, when of course there are many ways.

Being entirely self-taught can be lonely, confusing and demoralising. It’s not just a matter of reading the right books, either, but of getting out there, engaging with the land, learning the seasons, finding your own ways of responding to that. For some, the solitary path is the only one that can ever make sense. It’s also worth bearing in mind that every last detail taught in any Druid course anywhere comes from people. Teaching materials are developed by experience, practice, and experimenting. On one hand they can save you a lot of time and spare you from both dead ends and wheel reinventions. On the other, their validity depends on having been used, and that does not mean other ways will turn out to be less valid. Other innovations from other people may better suit some times and places. That includes our innovations.

However you choose to learn, there is one critical thing that remains a constant across all possibilities: It’s down to the individual. What you do with the material you are given, or find, how you approach your learning and what of yourself you put in is critical. There is no course in existence that will turn you into a Druid. Only you can do that. A course may be helpful, but the work is all yours.

A place to stand

Being a solitary Druid feels a bit wrong for a lot of us. I tried it, I didn’t like it. Being a Druid definitely has a collective quality about it, and comes with a side order of feeling a need to belong. Mind you, that’s generally a human thing, we all want to fit somewhere. Writing about exclusion in Druidry I got a lot of responses both here and on facebook, from people who do not seem to have a place to stand.

Yesterday I took the plunge and offered something I’d been contemplating for a while.There is now a proper and permenant page for it here https://druidlife.wordpress.com/secret-order-steampunk-druids/

The Secret Order of Steampunk Druids is neither secretive nor very orderly. It may help to be into either Steampunk or Druidry, but the only qualification for membership is wanting to be a member. The only requirement is playing nicely. Believe what you want to believe. Practice however you practice. Talk about it by all means. Accept that other people may be different and that’s their business, and all shall be well.

I’m not going to set up any kind of online chat space because those seem to be places where people with too much time on their hands try to tell other people how to be Druids, and frankly that’s all very dull and it would be more fun to communicate by other means. In person is nice.
I’m barely going to run this at all, but if anyone fails to ‘play nicely’ I shall come round and raise my eyebrows at them until they reform. Probably. Or I’ll just giggle at them, but those of you who already wanted in are deeply splendid individuals so I doubt eyebrow raising will be called for.

If you need a place to stand, if you need to be recognised and to belong, and this seems like a space, claim it. If the idea of revival revival inspires an impish grin to form upon your features, hang around. There was so much energy, craziness and creativity in revival Druidry, it would be fun to try and reclaim that without all the fibbing about where it really came from.

In the meantime, initiate yourself with a nice cup of tea, or similar, and perhaps a bit of cake, feel free to contemplate what you might want to wear, and where you might take this, let me know if you are playing, and if you need to, give yourself a title. As a general guideline, the less you know about Druidry the more outlandish your title should be. People who know their stuff should have quiet, self effacing titles.
Our two major tenets are warmth, playfulness and comedy our three, three major tenets are warmth, comedy, playfulness and a strange devotion to Professor Elemental, Lord Summerisle, no, four…

And if you do see Professor Elemental when you are out there, do consider it your proper business as a Steampunk Druid, to follow him round singing songs from The Wicker Man. If you don’t know any, just hum…

The naming of Druid groups

This week over at Cat’s Druidy blog, she talked about names for pagans. http://druidcat.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/whats-in-a-name/ – it’s an excellent and rather funny post. It got me thinking about a parallel issue – how we name groups. When pagans cluster themselves together to do things, they tend to go for names, but finding the right name to muster under is not the easiest job in the world. So, how do you name a Druid gathering?

Many groups include a tag that says something of what they are, so here’s a quick rundown of those and what they mean, or might mean.

Order – in theory this is a big group with its own way of doing Druidry, likely to have member groves, formal membership. Think The British Druid Order, ADF, OBOD. Every so often someone with big ideas and a small following will call themselves an order too, even if technically they look more like a grove. This can cause confusion. In an Gorder, the founding grove may be called the mother grove.

Grove – a closed Druid group, usually has a defined membership, celebrates the cycles of the year and may meet at other times to study and socialise. May belong to an order, may be independent.

Seed Group – especially in OBOD, a group that aspires to be a grove but dooesn’t feel qualified yet.

Gorsedd – a ritual group meeting to celebrate, it may well not have a formal membership or gather outside of ritual. Again, may be part of something else, may not. Sometimes groves run gorsedd as part of their service.

Moot – a social gathering.

Learning circle – a study group, with a degree of equality and sharing, not formally led teaching.

Clan, tribe, circle – this kind of naming tends to denote a group with a definite identity who for whatever reason don’t feel the word ‘grove’ suits – they may be slightly eclectic, invite extended family, not want to seem to formal

There are other names out there, and they tend to reflect what the group is or does. It might use Bards, Ovates or Druids to designate it as Druidic.

Attached to your title, needs to be something to make the group individual. A significant number of groups will take the name of the geographical area they work in. They might name poetically, based on that, they might use a Celtic tribe name from their area, or something else that connects them to a place. Calling an old place ‘Caer’ is a tradition that certainly goes back to early revivalist Druids, so Avebury becomes Caer Abiri, Bath is Caer Badon – people in the know will know, it creates a dash of secrecy and mysticism.

Other groups draw on nature for their name, finding an emblem that resonates for them. These can be as simple, poetic or pretentious as anyone likes. Combining the two, gives you names like Clan of the Dancing Bears, Whispering Pine Grove, The Ancient and Very Serious Order of the Extremely Floppy Hats, (I may have made those up…).

Naming gives group identity, which is a great help when you’re trying to establish a group and give it a sense of self. It gives people a clue as to whether this might be the place for them. Equally, misnaming can create the wrong connotations, and draw the wrong people. A friend once described her first grove, named in a way that made people feel like it was a safe space that would hold them and mother them, which turned out to not be what she had wanted at all. If you invoke a deity, a creature or any kind of concept in your naming, that will inform the vibe of the group in entirely pragmatic ways, and you might also want to think about the kind of spiritual attention it could get you. Don’t invite other entities along unless you are sure you want them present.

Names matter. They create identity, and we pin a lot to them. It’s well worth taking the time to get them right.