Tag Archives: Druid path

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.


The winding Druid path

When I first started to explore Druidry in a deliberate way, my path for the first few years was dominated by learning about what modern Druids do. I learned the wheel of the year and the conventions of ritual, explored some of the philosophy and spent a fair amount of time working out how what I already knew fitted in with that.

For a while my main focus became service – volunteering for several organisations, reviewing books, writing website articles, organising things. As circumstances changed, I found myself running rituals and teaching meditation. For some years the essence of my Druidry was helping other people along their path and most things I did were with an eye to how they might be helpful, not how they could deepen my practice or carry me forwards. But of course nonetheless, this did deepen my practice and carry me forwards.

I had a few years as a hermit – unplanned but necessary. With no community on hand that needed me, I started writing books and blogs. I went on an intense journey that changed my relationship with owning stuff and using resources. My Druidry became about this world and learning to live as lightly as I could. I started exploring prayer, developing a much richer and very private personal practice, totally different from anything I’d done before.

Returning to dry land, I’ve been exploring community again – not just Druid spaces. Finding places to be and struggling a bit with how and where I might fit. I’ve dedicated time in service to OBOD, which I’m really enjoying. A deepening relationship with my ancestors – which focused on ancestors of blood when it started nearly 4 years ago, has become a deep exploration of ancient ancestry. It involves a lot of physical journeys, walking ancestral ways in the landscape and exploring their places.

This summer I’ll be teaching ritual skills at camp. It’s a bit like going back to the things I was first doing – ritual comes easily and naturally to me, and always did. I come full circle in this one having learned a lot, and changed, and it will be a new journey. I know I learn most when I’m teaching.

At the moment I’m also finding that the call to express my Druidry has become a call to political activism. I see a lot of my friends responding in the same way. How can we talk about tribe, land, nature, relationship, without responding to the destructive political approaches that dominate right now. Badger culls, fracking, climate change and social injustice to name but a few make it difficult to waft about in the robes, ignoring the mainstream. We are needed more than ever, to act, and to speak up. As protestors, as commentators, as potential politicians ourselves, I’m seeing a lot of Druids and fellow travellers gritting their teeth and wading into the unlovely world of politics. Because we must.

My great longing at the moment is that the tide will turn. Hope will triumph over hate. Reason will triumph over delusion. The lying, cheating, stealing bastards around the world will be kicked out of positions of power, and a more functional set of people will take over. People with fair and sensible ideas who, for the majority of the time can be left to get on with it. But not all the time, because that makes them complacent. I dream of a future where there is no call to be political, and when the Druid path will bring me to some new place. Community resilience perhaps. Tree planting. Sitting on hills all night. A life where I can sing songs and make up stories, and not worry so much. Perhaps we can get there.


Responsible Druid

Anyone who read the comments yesterday will see that I’ve been told off by a ‘Senior Druid’. My inclusive, find your own path approach risks leading the unwary into bad practice and improper Druidry, apparently. So, today I’d like to mention a thing that I consider really important.

The first thing that you do when you set out to become a Druid, is to take responsibility for your path.

There are many people who can teach you things about what Druidry might mean. There books aplenty. There are those who will say you have to read certain things, believe certain things, wear the right robes. You may be told to join the right Order, celebrate specific festivals or be encouraged to give yourself an unpronounceable name in a language you don’t speak. There are those who will offer you things that seem so mad, unfounded and impossible that you are left bemused and uncomfortable. There are others who will encourage you to explore widely and draw your own conclusions. I fall firmly into the final group, I think there are very few things you ‘must’ do in order to be a Druid, but one of them, without any doubt, is to take responsibility for your own path, and never abdicate that to someone else, no matter how senior they seem, how many books they’ve written or how many blog follower they have. Being responsible for your own path is your sacred duty as a Druid.

Ancient Druidry cast the participants as the thinking classes of the Celtic peoples. Graeme Talboys has written eloquently on this topic, and if you’d like to look into it, I recommend getting one of his books with ‘Druid’ in the title (he also writes excellent fiction). As I see it, any area of intellectual endeavour is therefore valid work as part of your Druidry. History and philosophy are always popular, but with crisis looming, I think we need more Druid economists, politicians, alternative technology experts and other forward looking academics, too.

Unless you are physically unable to get outside, or are in a place where that’s unsafe, then your Druidry should take you outside. By all means use the computer to do your intellectual learning, but also get out and do something. Explore your land. Druids need soil, and frequently need trees. Druids in landscapes that do not naturally feature trees have to figure out what, in the absence of trees, a Druid in their part of the world should be engaging with. Explore ancestry. Think. Learn. Pay attention to your emotional responses. Create, imagine, follow your inspiration.

I’ve talked about service recently, and the importance of that not being po-faced martyrdom. I’ll say that again. Serve by doing the good stuff.

On the surface that’s all very clear and ‘thou shalt’, but only in broad brush strokes. In practice, there’s such a vast amount to choose from as you find your own path. Your inspiration and your passion should guide those choices. Follow the call of your heart and the cry of your animal self. Listen to the land, and listen to your own wisdom. Of course listen to what other people do and think, because you can steal ideas, draw inspiration, find connections, and spare yourself from re-inventing the wheel all the time.

Every now and then you will run into someone who has given themselves a Senior Druid title and decided that they have the right to dictate how you should go about your Druidry. What you do with that, is your responsibility. All I can say is, the ‘Senior Druid’ title is often self chosen. If someone runs an Order, has a big Grove, teaches and you’ve gone to them seeking advice, then you might want to listen to what they say. No experienced Druid worth their salt throws themselves at other people uninvited to say what should and shouldn’t be happening, unless that person is actively dangerous to themselves or others. Anyone doing this is probably on an ego trip and doesn’t deserve your attention.

You are responsible for your path, and that means you are responsible for deciding whose advice to follow. I do not have all the answers. Most days the best I can manage is to formulate questions. Hang around with me and you are never going to get to call yourself a Senior Druid, and if that bothers you, then you’re in the wrong place! (Unless, as Graeme suggested yesterday, you become the sort of senior Druid who goes into the woods and then forgets what they were doing there… but that’s another story.)


Of dualism and Druids

One of the great underpinnings of modern, western thinking, is dualism. Mind-body separation sneaks its way into a great many things. Not least, into spirituality. So many faiths have at their essence the idea of a separation between things material and things spiritual. We must overcome, transcend, or otherwise subdue and conquer worldly, bodily things to obtain Heaven, Nirvana, Enlightenment, or wherever else we think we may be going.

Dualism came out of an old world view that had no trouble separating mind from body because it lacked most of the technical details we have today. Brains are chemical interactions happening inside physical structures. How we think, is physical. The chemistry that informs our thinking, and our emotions, is the same chemistry as works is way through the rest of our bodies, and it is subject to all kinds of influences. We may think about mind altering drugs as being something hardcore and illegal, but they aren’t. The feature in everyday life.

Over many years, I’ve watched what anaemia, low blood sugar or a salt shortage does to my mood, and to my brain functionality. I’ve become familiar with the physical nature of both depression and anxiety, ailments I feel in my ‘body’ far more than in my ‘mind’. Laughter helps us to heal, depression makes us more vulnerable to sickness. Let’s mention alcohol, caffeine, tobacco as well. Hot spices. Hot food even. They all change us.

All of this leads me to think that it is not a clever plan to seek the spiritual at the expense of the body. Mental health and physical health go together. You can’t imbibe poisons and expect your mind to be unaffected. You can’t ignore your body in the quest for intellectual or spiritual advancement, and imagine there will be no consequences. In ignoring the body we can become even more alienated from the natural world, which for Druids, really doesn’t make any sense at all.

I’ve watched with interest in the last few weeks as a number of Druids have started blogging about running. For a spirituality that embraces nature, celebrates the material world and seeks to go deeper rather than wanting to get away from bodily life, it makes sense to me to explore Druidry in physical ways as well as being magical, philosophical and whatnot. Walking, dancing, drumming, working with our bodies, experiencing nature as it manifests in our bodies, is all part of how Druidry can be. We are a part of the water cycle, the carbon cycle, the cycles of nitrogen and oxygen. We have a place in the food chain. Our bodies are made from the dust of the stars and our earthly ancestors. Seeing the spiritual in the physical is, for me at least, a big part of the Druid path.

Following on from this, we can make care for the physical body part of how we live our Druidry. It’s possible to think of the body as the earth in microcosm. How are we going to take care of the earth if we don’t know how to take care of the tiny fragment of nature that is us?

I view my mind and body as parts of a whole. May as well talk about spleen-body dualism, as mind-body dualism, as I see it. It’s all chemistry and physical structures and there’s no great dividing line at the neck. Sugar highs affect brain and rest of body alike. Depression makes my body sluggish. I also don’t see any divide between emotion and intellect. Emotion is, technically speaking, all about the body chemistry, the hormones, the blood sugar levels and so forth. Mood is chemical. Chemicals happen right through our bodies. There is no separation. The idea of viewing myself as a collection of unrelated bits, with some of those more ‘spiritual’ than others, seems a bit daft to me. It’s totally at odds with what contemporary science has to tell us. And, viewing my ancestor Druids as the scientists of their day, means I don’t feel easy ignoring what modern science tells us.

Which begs some very interesting questions about what I would have done had I come into the world in the era when the rational difference between emotion and intellect was very much in vogue, along with the mind-body dualism that has informed how we still tend to think about medicine. Would I have been out on the fringe with the then-denigrated holistic folk, or would I have been supporting the science? Convenient for me that I don’t have to make that decision. I have no idea what the answer is to that one, or what I might have done, but I do enjoy floating the questions.


Daily Practice

Listening to The Druid Podcast last month, and a very interesting interview with T. Thorn Coyle, she stated that anyone wishing to take their spirituality forward should focus on daily practice. What does this mean? Druidry as shared in ritual at focal festivals through the year is one thing, but we can hardly take the fanfare and faff of ritual into every day, can we? Or can we?

When we gather to celebrate the 8 festivals through the year, we’re focusing on the cycle of the seasons and a set of Celtic-derived dates with their ancestral associations. If you poke about online, you can find a pagan festival for most days in the year. Celebrating all of them would be a full time job, not to mention a disorientating process of hopping from one culture to another. We may find more festivals we want to honour through the year, but as a daily thing, it would be too much for most of us.

We can look at small private rituals honouring the day, the season, the rise of sun and moon, the wheeling of the stars. The passage of seasons is a subtle process that goes one day to the next, so we can make it part of our daily practice to explore what ‘now’ means and respond to it in a spiritual way. That doesn’t have to mean formal ritual. Contemplation, experience, celebration and creative response are also very much part of the Druid path.

Daily practice could mean taking the time to meditate. It might also be about dedicating time in service, to our gods, ancestors, land and communities. We might focus our daily practice on specific skills – herbalism, healing, studying the stars, learning animal lore, gardening, music, poetry, performance art… The Druids of history were not just religious figures, but arbiters of justice, keepers of histories and genealogies, and many more things. Exploring these aspects of the path opens up yet more scope for daily activities.

When it comes down to it, what makes an action ‘druidic’ is primarily that the person undertaking it, sees it that way. A person who goes for a run with their ipod piping music into their ears, and no thought for the land they run on, is not being a Druid. Someone who sets out in full consciousness, to run with the energy of the land and the wind, could well be undertaking their Druidic practice.

In making something an expression of Druidry, we bring our spiritual insights and ethics to it. We imbue the activity with soul and we understand it as meaningful because we have made it an expression of Druidry. Undertaking anything with consciousness of spirit within it, sensitive to the implications of what we do, the relationships intertwined with the action, the flows of inspiration… anything we do in that way can become Druidry. How we cook, how we dance our way across the surface of the earth. How we dream.

Daily practice doesn’t have to mean a formal ritual, or getting the incense out. We might improvise an altar on the side of a road, or pull litter from the hedge. We might walk and listen to the wind, sit with our ancestors in the graveyard, or share inspiration. What matters in the intent and the awareness we hold. Which begs the question, if we can make anything an expression of Druidry, can we push on from there, seeking to make everything we do a conscious expression of Druidry?

Yes.

And that doesn’t mean stepping entirely out of ‘regular’ life, it means bringing our Druidry to all the facets of our lives and trying to see where it fits, and figure out what to do if it doesn’t. That’s not something that can happen overnight. I’ve been pushing at the boundaries of my own experience for years. Where can I be more present, more conscious? Where am I not living in a way that expresses my Druidry? I have a suspicion there is always more to do, further to go, there is no point of arrival, no moment of ‘and now I am as druid as it is possible to be.’ Which is part of the joy of it really.