Think Druids and you may well be visualising the beardy guys in white out welcoming the dawn at Stonehenge. Ritual is one of the defining elements of Druidry in terms of how it’s perceived from outside. When I blogged at Pagan and Pen last summer about finding myself solitary as a Druid, a friend flagged up that her understanding of Druidry was very much that we ‘hunt in packs’ – the solitary Druid is something else. The more time I spend not with a grove, the more I ponder that.
The Druid rituals we have aren’t ancient, but a legacy from the Druid revivalists, with a dash of things appropriated from the wiccans (or by the wiccans, who can say!) inspiration taken from Native American spirituality, and the innovation of OBOD, Emma Restall Orr and others. We have a form, and we know how to use it. We make a circle. In some order or another, we honour the spirits of place, the four directions (or three worlds) the ancestors, and we make a call for peace. We do something hopefully meaningful, we share bread, cake, mead and the like. Then we repeat the honouring in reverse order on the way out. It’s reliable. Once you know how it goes, you can dive into any group and have a sense of what’s doing, and join in if you wish. That’s the great advantage of having a plan.
Some groups go beyond the plan, and into the realms of script. Fixed words for every occasion. Then everyone knows what’s coming and exactly what they are supposed to do. Or not supposed to do. You either have a bit to say, or you don’t. Which means some people may just be stood about like the proverbial lemons for much of the ritual. I’ve always favoured looser ritual structures, that enable everyone to get involved. They aren’t so vulnerable to going astray if someone is ill on the day, or forgets their bit of paper. Fluffed lines, or lines that can’t be read because the rain took out the ink on the lovely speech about the beautiful midsummer sun, can really ruin the flow. Nature does not reliably stick to the ritual plan, so being able to respond to the conditions on the day is a huge plus.
But that’s still a lot like organised ritual.
What happens if you ditch all the forms, frameworks, safety net and familiarity that is regular Druid ritual? If you start in the heat of the moment, with the taste of awen on your lips, can you make ritual that isn’t ritual, but is something wild, spontaneous, purely of the place and moment? Would it work? And would it be Druidry, or something else?
I’ve done a little experimenting with this wilder kind of expression. Enough to say yes, it can be done, and yes, it feels exactly like Druidry to me. I think it would need far higher levels of trust between participants than regular ritual. I think it needs time to evolve so that it’s not just an exercise in inventing a new form. There is a possibility out there, something unstructured and inspiration led, that can be shared or solitary, that I know feels exactly like Druidry, but may be going to infuriate anyone who is partial to those established forms and structures. But then, I’m not doing this in the hopes of pleasing everyone, only trying to find my own way, taking anyone with me who finds it resonant.
Feral, awen inspired Druidry. I feel like I’m shuffling my feet onto a whole new path here. As I find out where it goes, I’ll blog the journey.