Tag Archives: Druid

Druidry and the dormouse

I’ve never seen a dormouse in the wild – but that’s not unusual. They are shy creatures and they have an aversion to putting their feet on the ground. It means they are particularly affected by the presence or absence of green corridors connecting areas of woodland. Their cute, sleeping forms are, as a consequence, a popular image for the Woodland Trust and for other organisations trying to reconnect the fragments of our remaining wild places.

They have a great deal of power as an icon for vanishing wildlife, and as this is the way I have most experience of them, it’s the one I’m going to focus on. Activism on behalf of the natural world is something many Druids do. As individuals we may be enthused about all kinds of aspects of nature. However, most people are moved by cute things they can readily identify with.

The sleeping dormouse is adorable. Small, soft, furry, harmless, vulnerable – it pushes all the right buttons to get people caring about woods and trees. It can be difficult to get people to care, there are so many pressures to do that, and emotive content tends to have an impact. I don’t like approaches that over-play on your emotions because I think they just add to the problem. But, cute dormouse is cute and engages people without hurting them.

Dormice hibernate and my understanding is that their name comes from the Latin and that the Romans liked to eat them. However, our sense of them as sleepy creatures owes largely to Alice in Wonderland’s sleepy dormouse, and to mostly only seeing pictures of dormice having a kip. When they aren’t hibernating, they’re busily doing the things mice do, only inside hedges at night, so you won’t see them being active. The story about the dormouse is far more prominent than the reality of the creature itself.

Dormice are not available to most of us. To encounter them you’d likely need some training and the opportunity to participate in dormouse-specific projects. But, dormice are not commodities. They don’t exist to teach us, or for that matter to charm us. They may be good fluffy posterboys and girls for raising environmental awareness, but they do not exist for us. As most of us cannot engage with them directly they raise questions about the service we might unconsciously expect from nature, and our feelings of entitlement to have access to everything. Dormice owe us nothing, and perhaps the best way to honour them (aside from protecting their habitats) is actually to leave them in peace.


The Druid’s Hedgehog

Spiky on the outside, soft in the middle, I identify rather a lot with hedgehogs. Night wandering snufflers, eaters of whatever turns up, there’s something cheerfully pragmatic about hedgehogs. In recent years they’ve also provided us with evidence about how quickly creatures can adapt. Once, they rolled into balls to deal with threats, and died to cars. Now, they run away. They shouldn’t have to, but human spaces aren’t much good for them.

In my teens I had a number of memorable hedgehog encounters. There was a hedgehog who lived under my grandmother’s shed. There was one evening when I was sat on her doorstep because I couldn’t sleep (I lived between her house and my mother’s not really belonging anywhere). The night was quiet, but there came a sound as though an army of a hundred tiny marching feet was coming down the road. I was a little scared, but I stayed put. And down the road came a massive hedgehog, spines skittering over the bumps in the tarmac to make the sound of many feet.

That encounter got me thinking about traditions of putting bread and milk out for faeries. This is also what one traditionally puts out for a hedgehog, although it’s not good for them and cat food is far better. But, feed the hedgehog, and there will be fewer pests in your vegetable plot, and you will be blessed with more food.

I’ve rescued many a hedgehog from roads and sides of roads. I find that putting coat sleeves over the hands makes it easier to lift them – they are really spiky. I’ll take the pain of that over leaving one in danger any time, though.

Other hedgehog stories – the one I sat with on a low wall for a while on my way home from the pub. The family of baby hedgehogs who cavorted on my lawn one late summer’s afternoon. The hedgehog on the sports field, looking up at the full moon. The two hedgehogs in the same place involved in what looked like a dance routine. They are always charming.

I’ve lived with them in my garden, I’ve chatted to them late at night. Hedgehogs don’t mind people that much – not if we’re on foot and at a reasonable distance. They like us even more when we make our gardens accessible, leaving hedgehog sized gaps under fences. They like us when we leave them safe places to sleep and don’t later turn those into bonfires. They like us when we put stones in our ponds so they don’t drown in them, and when we don’t poison life in our gardens. They are a blessing to have around.

If there’s a hedgehog in your life, it is a measure that you are doing things well.


Druidry and Animals

Modern Druidry includes quite a bit of animal lore. There’s what various people have gleaned from mediaeval Celtic sources, from folklore, folk song and other sources no doubt more and less historically accurate. Like most Pagan paths, our creature lore tends to focus on larger, higher status animals. The Druid Animal Oracle is a fine case in point here – it’s a lovely pack and I treasure my copy of it, but there’s more missing from it than is included.

So, what about all those other creatures? The ones we don’t have myths for. The ones that don’t crop up in Pagan conversations about animal spirits and Celts and whatnot? We’ve lost a lot of larger mammals from the British landscape, and these must have been significant to our ancestors. We’ve lost the stories that go with them, too. And size isn’t everything – some of our tiniest neighbours, like the earthworm, are intrinsic to life as we know it.

In the coming weeks I’m going to explore some of these creatures as best I can. I’m going to be focusing on the ones that don’t have roles in epic tales, that aren’t traditionally used as metaphors for human behaviour. I’ll be drawing mostly on personal experience and things that I have feelings about, so it’ll be a random list with no obvious logic from the outside. I’m totally open to suggestions for what to include – depending on me knowing anything at all about the being in question!


Magic in the creative process

As a Druid, I hold inspiration sacred and I see creativity as an inherently magical process. However, there’s one aspect of this that is stand-out magical for me, and it has to do with how I work with other people.

Without a doubt, I do my best work either when I’m collaborating with others, or writing for someone very specifically. It gives me focus. Ideas are easy to find, for me the key moment of inspiration is when I see how to pull a selection of ideas together to make it into something for someone.

What I write depends a lot on who I’m writing for. When I’m writing for someone specific, my relationship with them colours what I create. There will be a moment, or moments when I’m thinking about them and drawing on all the emotions that go with that. What happens next is like opening a door. Until I open that door, I don’t know where it goes. I don’t know what will happen to me or what I’ll be able to do.

I feel this in a tangible way. I feel it in my body, in my thoughts. The door has a reality. Opening it changes things. Stepping through is a shift. I have no idea what I’m stepping into, what this space is or how it works, but it changes things for me. It lifts my creativity out of the stuff I can do from practice and experience, and elevates it into something with more inherent enchantment in it.

The door opens, and I pass through it. I write whatever it is that I could only have written by taking that step. Some people I will only ever write one or two things for because there turns out not to be much magic on the other side of the door. Some people I will keep coming back to because writing for them brings out the best in me. I’ve been writing for Tom for more than a decade now, and that door always leads me to good places.

Inevitably, this process impacts on my relationships with people. I’m drawn to the people I can create for in this way. I’m even more excited about people who are prepared to be a bit more active, engaging with me around whatever I’ve written for them, and deliberately opening doors for me by asking me to write specific things.

It’s a giddy feeling, when it works. Wild and wonderful, unpredictable. When I open those doors to write for someone else, I go places I would never have gone on my own. I’m able to think differently. Possibilities open up before me. I am at my happiest and my best when I can do that.


Druidry and Food

Eating is one of the most fundamentally natural things we do. It is an everyday opportunity to engage with our bodies, and to be alert to the relationship between our bodies, and the natural world. For a Druid this is territory rich in potential.

Like many people, my lifelong relationship with food is problematic. Fat-shaming featured heavily in my childhood, although having dug out some old photos, I was never especially fat. I was encouraged to feel guilty about enjoying food, and fearful of the threat of fatness. I ate badly in my teens – poor nutrition, failed attempts at starving myself in a desire to be thin. I became fearful of eating around other people. In my twenties, food became part of the power balance in a truly unhealthy relationship. I’ve also had my relationship with food undermined by poverty and sourcing issues.

It’s really only in recent years that I’ve been able to eat exactly as I please and feel safe while doing so. I’ve discovered how much I enjoy raw, fresh things, how much I prefer a diet dominated by plant matter. Wholegrains. Diversity, experimentation and messing about have become options for me. I’ve started to enjoy cooking. I’ve done a lot of cooking – as a matter of duty. Only in recent years as my relationship with food has changed have I been able to enjoy thinking about meals, planning food, and I’ve come to truly enjoy making and sharing food as well.

Food can be a creatively expressive form. It can be inspired, and we can bring our sense of the sacred to what we eat. Meals can be a good basis for social connections and for family life, so if community is part of your Druidry, food is a way of approaching that. People who eat together form bonds. Companions are, etymologically speaking, people who share bread. That can be a ritual thing, but is just as powerful in other contexts.

Food can be part of how we do our activism – in our dietary choices and how we source what we eat. It brings us into contact with the soil, with other living beings and with the state of the planet.

Eating engages us with our fundamentally animal selves. It gives us opportunity to honour nature in our own bodies. To be embodied in your nature based spirituality is to resist body-shaming, food shaming and fat shaming. It strikes me as inherently Druidic to seek the balances between personal health, environmental health, joy and celebration when it comes to food.


Latest news from Hopeless Maine

Those of you who have been with me for a while will know that aside from writing about Druidry, I also write fiction and graphic novels. At time of writing, there are three Hopeless Maine graphic novels out there, two prose books, an array of videos from our live performance stuff, a great deal of art, and copious amounts of contributions from other people. This is the project that brought my husband and I together and it remains a big part of our lives.

The latest development is a film project, which we’ve only gone public about in recent weeks. We’re going to make a Hopeless Maine silent film on a period camera, with a soundtrack, and a mix of actors and puppets. We have most of the team to do this in place.

I’ve started charting the journey over on the Hopeless Maine blog, so if you’re curious, there’s going to be posts every Friday, and two are up already as this post goes live. https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/category/hopeless-film/

If you’re super keen and you follow me at any level aside from Moon over on Patreon, you’ll get a monthly update about what’s actually happening right now with the project, not just the back history. https://www.patreon.com/NimueB Sign up as a dustcat and you can read one of the aforementioned Hopeless prose novels as a series. There is also Druid stuff over there – the level called Bards and Dreamers, or combine fiction and non-fiction streams by becoming a Steampunk Druid.

To avoid duplicating too much, I won’t put much film content on this blog, but I may be going to talk about the creative and collaborative processes here as that content won’t be going anywhere else. I’m really excited about the people I’m working with and the creative possibilities in all of this.

And yes, that post I did a bit back about Gregg McNeil is part of all this – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2020/01/04/the-glorious-work-of-gregg-mcneil/


Druid Leadership

When I first encountered Druidry about twenty years ago, it seemed structured. Groves, Orders, arch-druids, hierarchy and Very Important Druids. Perhaps it was quite anarchic all along, but from outside, it looked like a movement with a few key leaders and a lot of followers.

I’m reasonably confident that I’ve seen a shift since then. I think there are a lot more Druids who, while interested in learning from others, have no desire to submit to anyone else’s leadership. I think a lot of membership now is held more lightly, and people turn up when it suits them. I think there are not many people coming forward to be Druid leaders. I also think these are all good things.

One of the problems inherent in leading is that to do it well takes time and energy. Of course for the person on a bit of an ego trip, this isn’t always a problem. I see experienced Druids who could have stepped forward to lead choosing not to do so – in no small part because they want to be Druids far more than they want to be leaders. I see such people sharing experiences and teaching in lighter and less authority-laden ways, and I like how that looks. We don’t have to follow someone to learn from them, we do not have to surrender power to them or imagine they are better than us. We can just swap notes and pick up whatever seems useful.

What I see increasingly is Druids communicating through networks of interactions. I see something that looks a lot more organic than the Druidry of twenty years ago. There’s less drama in it. Wind the clock back fifteen years or so and I looked after the Druid Network’s Directory for a while, which meant I was in touch with a great many orders, groves, arch-druids and whatnot. It was drama-laden work, and frequently full of weirdness. I see all the same odd assertions, beliefs and ego stuff playing out in Druid groups online, but without the same power base. Without the confidence that having self-identified as an arch-druid should mean something. We still get our fair share of preposterous folk with outrageous ideas, but with a wider community full of people who know about Druid history, there are plenty of folk able to step in and offer some reality.

It suited our ancestors of revival-druidry to adopt a hierarchical view of Druids. It fitted the patriarchal, colonial times in which they lived. It fitted their desire for fame, fortune, notoriety and followers. Druidry as it exists today has grown out of that revival period stuff, and become something a lot more anarchic. There’s a much more democratic sharing of ideas, much more room for more people to be heard, and far fewer people who want to start their own even more ancient than anyone else’s Order so that they can get invited to meetings of some sort or another and get angry with other near-identical Orders consisting of one arch-druid and his dog…


Druidry and Love

Many spiritual paths include the idea of spiritual love as a goal – a love that transcends and overcomes and isn’t conditional and doesn’t discriminate. It’s never worked for me.

The Druid’s Prayer introduces the idea of love alongside the idea of justice – and in the knowledge of justice, the love of it. What is love without justice? Love without some kind of fairness, can simply be the facilitation of terrible things. Unconditional love for the polluter, the exploiter, the corporate greed destroying the planet? I don’t think so. Unconditional love for the politicians and business people who put profit before life and sell the future for a quick buck? No bloody way.

I suppose it works if you’re all about spirit and transcendence, if this world is a means to the next or something to overcome. Loving everything in much the same way might work well if your true goal is to leave it all behind.

Druidry is of this world. It is spirituality rooted in nature. Love without the love of justice doesn’t make as much sense in this context. If we undertake to love beauty, truth, honesty, honour, community, and all that is wild and natural, we cannot truly also love anything that devotes itself to destroying that. I think it’s really important that we do not love in that way, in fact. With humans trashing the planet, aiming for universal love may make it harder for us to stand up to other humans and demand better from them.

There are merits in seeking and seeing the best in each other. There’s something very lovely about seeing the sacred and divine in every other human being. But not if that makes us feel like we don’t need to act. Not if it makes us complacent and overly comfortable. Druidry is of this world, and this world is suffering. I do not believe we can love this world, and extend love to those who are deliberately destroying it. We need our rage and resentment, we may well need our hatred to motivate us into acting. I do not accept that these so-called negative emotions are something to overcome. They have their place. If we’re all peace and light and love, we may never do what is necessary.

And at this point it isn’t about nice philosophical ideas and personal goals for spiritual growth. It’s about who dies, and how many species become extinct and how much is lost forever.


Druidry and service

I first started studying Druidry about 18 years ago. Back then, I was hungry for knowledge, and hopeful about developing wisdom. I wanted something that gave my life coherence, and Druidry brought together all the things I was interested in, giving shape to my life in a way I was excited about. I joined a Grove, went to open rituals, studied with OBOD. When I started, this is something I was doing for me.

Not very far in, the idea of service as the heart of Druidry happened to me, and I volunteered for The Druid Network. For some years, it was all about how much I could give and as a person who already wasn’t good at self-care, this didn’t entirely work for me. Most of my Druidry came to be about what I did for other people – in ritual, in teaching (I’d grown up Pagan, so when I got to Druidry I actually knew quite a lot already).

I don’t really know how to do ritual for myself. It was always something I did as an act of service. I only dress the part if I’m working for someone who I think needs me to dress the part. I don’t go to events unless someone wants me to do a talk. It struck me this week that my whole approach to Druidry has been shaped, if not distorted by this sense that service is what matters most.

Most people who take up a spiritual path do so because they want to grow. They want to enrich themselves, and for Pagans, opening the door to wonder and the numinous is usually part of the mix. When I started out, that was what I wanted. I have a lot of underlying issues around not feeling like I deserve nice things, and this has no doubt played its part. So, I’m looking at my assumptions.

I don’t really ‘do’ deity and that’s in no small part because I can’t see why any deity would want to bother with me so there’s not much point asking. For years now, I’ve only held sacred space and time for other people’s benefit. I don’t dress up, because I’m not glamorous and I don’t really feel entitled to present that way – I intend to challenge this. I don’t do much pagan bling, or interior decoration because I’ve persuaded myself it’s superficial. But it’s also joyful, and I’ve not made much space for personal joy in my path, and I think I need to.

What if my Druidry was fun?

What if the study and embodying of Druidic philosophy was something I consciously did for my own benefit first and foremost?

What if I made more deliberate space for beauty and joy? What if I allowed myself to play with this and take more delight in it?

What if I stopped trying to justify my use of time in terms of how I benefit other people?

 


Druidry and Life

What does it mean to live a Druid life? For some people it’s all about the magical side, the ritual, the deities. For some years now, my main areas of focus have been eco-activism, living in harmony with the planet, and how we think about being human, and interacting with each other. I’m interested in relationships with the land, and I blog about the bard path a bit. Often, I’m not making explicit how I see what I write about as being connected to Druidry.

Part of the ‘problem’ is that if you internalise something, it becomes less a conscious choice and more the water you swim in. Making the space to explore whether the water you swim in is the water you intended to swim in is always time well spent. Making things deliberate can be a good learning process. So, I shall try and take a step back and look more deliberately at how the Druidry is manifesting in my life and what I want to do with that.

I feel at the moment that I’m paused before a time of change. I’ve been making forays with my intuition and making space to invite magic into my life. My relationship with magic, deity and ritual is a bit messy, and for many years I’ve tended towards the pragmatic and had a complicated relationship with enchantment. I crave feelings of enchantment and wonder. I know how I got here, and perhaps I do know at this point how to change things. So there may be notes on the journey as I go along.

I’m going to make a point of writing with more explicit connections between life and Druidry. I think it will give me a good way to review what I’m doing, and I think other people may find it useful. Where, exactly, is the Druidry in my life? How do I reclaim magical possibility? How do I re-enchant myself? I’m curious to see if how I feel changes if I start making the Druid side of life a bit more explicit – even if it is only in my head.