Tag Archives: Druid

Druidry check in

One of the things I heartily recommend doing is to pause every now and then just to check in with where you are on your spiritual path. Are you doing enough to nourish your spirit? Have you let something slide that was important to you? Are you happy with what you’re doing, or do you need more, less, different…? 

It’s important to do this without being harsh on yourself. This isn’t about how good a Druid you are being, how diligent or anything else like that. If life hasn’t given you much space for Druidry, that’s simply a situation to acknowledge. If you’re feeling restless and need to change, that’s fine. If you’re comfortably doing the same things, that’s fine too. There are no wrong answers. The important bit is being self aware.

Where am I? Still mostly focused on nature as it manifests in my body, alongside issues of trying to heal and improve my strength. The bardic side of my life has taken a bit of a leap forwards, as you’ll know if you read my recent viola stories post. There’s definitely more to come on that score.

Much to my surprise, ritual is back in my life. I used to be interested in ritual primarily as a community activity. However, I’ve been exploring very small and intimate forms of ritual and magic, and this has become really important for me. It was wholly unexpected. I’ve found it really powerful and moving, and have every intention of devoting more time to this.

I’m very invested in what I’m doing in terms of community, performance and supporting others – those things are all very related to each other at the moment. 

Through the autumn I went through quite a deliberate process around re-enchantment. There’s a small book pertaining to that experience and I’ll get it out into the world at some point. At the moment I’m consolidating, letting a renewed sense of sacredness settle in me, and waiting to see what comes next. I’m working with my intuition a lot, of necessity, and I’m investing in the dreaming part of my life.

I know that this year is going to bring a lot of changes. I know what some of them are, but not all of them. I feel relaxed about this, and I welcome in the greater scope for adventures and creativity I know will be coming.

At the limits of love

My troll has brought me some interesting challenges this week. She’s my troll now in a way that seems personal and involved. She’s been showing up here for months, so whatever this is for her, it’s clearly a significant act of dedication. Sometimes she uses a male name – perhaps like me she’s genderfluid in some way, or experimenting with her identity, but I know it’s always her, I recognise her easily enough.

Her response to my complicated heart post suggested pain and need, a desire to be cared about and to be important. She’d like me to be kinder to her, more welcoming. Never mind that her previous visit had been to call my online event a flop – but I suspect that too is something that comes from a place of pain. I know she’s desperate for attention – there’s no other reason to keep coming back here to get cross with me.

What do I do with this? I consider compassion to be an important part of my path, and generally my impulse is to try and help people. It’s hard to respond with warmth and care to someone who only ever shows up angry and wanting to pick holes. I’d genuinely love to be able to do better, but I need something I can work with.

I wish she’d tell me what she’s so unhappy about. I wish we could have a constructive conversation about that. Maybe then I could do or say something useful. I wish she’d write me a guest blog, – she could just email it to me at brynnethnimue at gmail dot com. She could send me her creative outpourings and I could put that out into the world in a supportive way and she could have the attention she needs in a better, happier sort of way. 

The connections we make with each other when we share the best of ourselves are just so much more fertile and rewarding. 

I can’t afford to care too much about someone who only shows up to try and knock me down. I’ve spent too much of my life being treated that way, and no one is going to send me back there. No one can have happy or meaningful relationships on those terms, and my heart goes out to my troll, because she seems so desperately unhappy and it’s pretty obvious that if she treats other people in her life the way she’s acting here, then there aren’t going to be close or deep relationships available to her.

Maybe she sees kindness as weakness. Maybe someone or something undermined her confidence so badly that she doesn’t know how to form meaningful connections. I can only speculate. I don’t want to leave anyone needlessly hurting and alone. 

I have limitations though. I can’t help a person if they won’t step up to change their own life. It is too much to ask that I respond to unkindness with love. People go to religions for that, for the idea of the divine parent who will love you unconditionally no matter what you do. I’m not a deity, I’m not capable of boundless and divine love. I’m human, and I have limits.

Come to me seeking help, care, support, friendship, connection… I’ll do what I can for you. Challenge me by all means, question my thinking, offer alternatives – but don’t just show up to try and smack me down, that’s not a basis for friendship, and for the person who craves attention, affection and warmth it’s a really self-harming thing to do.

Maybe dare to show up with your real name, as your real self, offering something of your own making, and you will find that there’s room for you.

Scenes from a Druid Life

What does it mean to live your day to day life as a Druid? Obviously there should be as many answers to that as there are Druids. How we draw on what we learn, and how we bring our beliefs into the every day is the key difference between studying Druidry as an idea, and actually undertaking to be a Druid.

For some people, the path to living the Druidry involves having a daily practice. I’m a bit haphazard in that regard, but I try to bring consciously Druidic things into my daily life, and to develop my thinking so that the things I default to carelessly still align with my intentions.

A recent morning brought some winter sun, so I took my review book outside. I’m reading The Circle of Life is Broken, by Brendan Myers; a potent mix of philosophy and squaring up to the climate crisis. As I sat, the wind picked up and played with the autumn leaves, and there were a number of small whirlwinds that passed through. I let what was happening around me interrupt my concentration, wanting to be present to the world and not just focused on my head. I heard a buzzard call and felt the sun on my skin.

Afterwards, I reflected on some of my experiences. I wrote something for a friend. I carried the quiet stillness of sitting out with me into the day. I wrote this blog post. 

I try to bring a balance of things to my days. Practical things must be done. I make time for creativity, for music practice, physical activity, study, service and rest. Those balances vary from day to day. I get outside as much as I can. I dream and daydream, reflect and contemplate. I am an intense person, but I like to do things quietly and thoughtfully. I manifest my intensity in involved thinking. I can be wholehearted while being calm and I can be passionate without courting drama. I seek that balance of emotional engagement and peacefulness, and it is there in a great deal of what I do.

There is no one right way of being a Druid. There’s no singular model for living a Druid life. If there was going to be a rule, I’m inclined to suggest it is simply that you should be conscious, deliberate, intentional about how you use your time, or at least some of your time. Unless you’ve got a better idea that you prefer, in which case, definitely do that instead.

The Anti-Consumerist Druid – a review

Katrina Townsend has written a really important book that explores – based on her own experience – what consumer culture does to a person. She shares her experiences of compulsive shopping, social media addiction and the way all of this eroded her sense of self. Furthermore she does so without falling into the kind of judgemental puritanism you can find in the newly converted, and also avoids self pity or anything that seems self indulgent. It’s an impressive balancing act and makes the book exceedingly readable.

I came to this book as someone who has always lived fairly lightly and who does not do consumer culture much. I found it an incredibly helpful read because I’ve only ever been able to look at this issue from the outside. I’m glad to know that how I thought consumer culture works is about right. What this book has given me is a greater feeling of compassion for the people caught up in it. If you’re already into the eco-living I can recommend reading this book as a way to develop insight and empathy. Judging people who are in this mess won’t help them. The more we understand how all of this stuff works, the better placed we are to pull people out of it.

My guess is that for anyone caught up in consumer culture, this will be a tremendously helpful book. It exposes the processes by which people become trapped in over-consuming. There’s a lot of good information about the mechanics of the problem, which is bound to be empowering for anyone affected by it. There’s also comfort, reliably, in finding you aren’t alone with a problem and that it’s not some kind of unique, personal failing. There’s so much around consumer culture that is designed to make you feel badly about yourself. Whether you feel like you aren’t living responsibly enough, you feel out of control or you feel like you’re failing by not keeping up, you’ll also feel like you should be able to shop your way out of that. This isn’t an accident.

There isn’t a huge amount of Druidry here – Katrina is new to the path. However, what she’s able to demonstrate is the way in which developing nature based spirituality can really help a person escape from the poisonous grip of consumerism. 

I think this book would pair really well with the Earth Spirit title I have coming out next year. Mine comes from the other side, looking at how to live more authentically and sharing what I know from my own experience of having managed to resist some of this culture of throwaway destructiveness. Consumer culture is a big thing to try and escape from, and  the idea of taking it down is even more challenging, but our lives depend on it. Life depends on it. The more we can do to share ideas and support each other, the better.

I’m going to finish this with a quote from Katrina that summed a lot of this up for me. This is what we are up against. This is what we have to figure out how to change for everyone: “it took a long time and some serious hard work to break once and for all my association between spending money, and feeling a sense of identity, of self-worth.”

More on the publisher’s website – https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/anticonsumerist-druid-beat-shopping-addiction-nature


When nature isn’t lovely

I’ve seen plenty of Pagan and Druid writing that celebrates nature in really straightforward ways. Nature, we tell each other, is beautiful and lovely and inspiring. Go out into nature, it will lift your spirits.

Sometimes nature is harsh. Sometimes nature looks a lot like a baby bird fallen from the nest and dead on the ground. Sometimes it’s the rainstorm that tears the flowers apart, or the remains of a fox cub on the side of the path. It’s watching a gull take a babe coot, or a buzzard take a rabbit. It’s the desperate, dying shriek of the mammal who has been found by the stoat. 

While I don’t like the way nature documentaries often focus excessively on violence, sometimes nature is violent. Sometimes it is arbitrary, cruel and makes no sense. The rising tide takes the nest of things too young and small to escape from it. The naturally occurring forest fire slaughters those who cannot flee fast enough.

Nature is the basis of all things, it is part of us and we are part of it. Life continues, often at the expense of other lives. Forces move through the world with no care for the lives they impact on. I think it’s important in nature based spirituality to acknowledge that nature itself is not moral. It’s not lovely, or benevolent, it simply exists. The universe can indeed be bountiful, but bounty for the fox is not benevolence to the rabbit. What creates bounty for humans at the moment is wiping out the majority of other creatures. When we see the bounty and not the cost, we don’t see nature as a whole.

Druidry cannot ignore the parts of nature that are neither pretty nor comforting. We need to square up to those as well. We don’t have to like all of what’s out there, but we do have to respect it. We don’t have to be happy in face of the harsher parts – it is important to have room in ourselves for the feelings that aren’t lovely. Sometimes you need to cry over the dead baby bird. Authenticity is bigger and messier than the idea that nature is lovely.

Druidry and community

When I first came to Druidry some twenty years ago, part of the attraction for me was the social aspect of it. Groves and Orders, open rituals, music and those first online spaces. I was in an area where a fair bit of in-person stuff was happening, and able to travel further afield sometimes to connect with other Druids.

The social side of religion is an important aspect of it for a lot of humans. Many of us long for a place to fit and a community to be part of, and many of us find those vital social connections through our spiritual lives. It’s normal to crave approval and validation, and religions generally give people opportunities to prove their devotion.

Community has the capacity to amplify things for us. When people bond together around good causes and the need for positive change, this can truly bring out everyone’s best qualities. It’s easier to be your best self when you get social approval for your generosity and kindness. Getting involved with a fundraising activity where a lot of people come together to do something good is affirming, and encourages you to do more of that thing.

It’s worth giving some thought to the things your Druid community focuses on to make sure that aligns with the qualities you want to develop in yourself. Some groups are very much focused on ritual and spiritual connection while for others coming together in the same place will be primarily about performing and sharing creativity. Online spaces are often more focused on learning and thinking, which works well for the more philosophically minded. Moots are good for people seeking to meet their social needs and can be particularly valuable for folk who are otherwise solitary.

The key really is to find a space that answers your needs. Sometimes it works to go into a space and ask for there to be room for more of the stuff that speaks to you. And so it is that moots sometimes develop open ritual groups, and ritual groups spawn study groups and moots end up with a lot of bardic content, or a whole table full of philosophers. All of these things are valuable.

The social side of Druidry allows us opportunities to be inspired and uplifted by each other. It may motivate us if we have people we want to impress, or delight. I know there are a lot of arguments out there against the idea of anything that looks like ‘ego’ but I’ve read enough mythology to feel that there’s plenty of room for bombast and good kinds of showing off, and that these things are only at odds with being spiritual if you’re part of something that teaches you it is good to be humble. Feeling socially recognised and valued isn’t a non-spiritual state and feeling validated by our communities can do a lot to help us work on things we find challenging.

Embodied with a brain

One of the things I’ve struggled with around ideas of embodiment is the degree to which I am head-led. I’ve come to some conclusions about this recently and am sharing them because I expect I’m not the only person on the Druid path who struggles with these issues. Druidry does tend to attract people who like to think.

I don’t do well when I try to lead with my body. Frankly, my body has no idea what it’s doing, doesn’t reliably know where the ground is and disassociates hard when panicked. I’ve gone rounds with feeling that I’m not good at being an embodied Druid because I’m very much in my own head.

When it comes to the chemistry that impacts on my whole body, that also starts most usually in my head. The things I feel normally begin with the things I think. How I respond to something conceptually informs my emotions, and that in turn defines what my embodied experience is.

I also find that if I’m trying to silence my inner voices, the main effect of that is to totally focus me inside my own head. There’s usually a lot going on in my brain such that shutting it down takes a lot of my concentration and tends to focus me inside myself. If I let my brain do what it does, while being open to the world, I end up being more present and embodied than I do for trying to shut my brain down.

While the relationship between our inner lives and outer realities can vary a lot, it’s worth remembering that the mind is as much a squishy bit of biology as any other part of us. The idea that mind and body are separate comes from a time and culture that also imagined we were made ‘in God’s image’ and separate from the rest of nature. It’s mind/body dualism that’s the issue, I think, not being brain-based.

Druidry and dedications

Rituals are a good opportunity for making dedications and having them witnessed by your community. Along the way there have been three dedications I’ve made in a Druidic context that have had a significant impact on me. Looking back I am all too aware that on each occasion, I really had no idea what the implications were of the commitments I was making.

Something like twenty years ago, I knelt in the wet grass at Stonehenge and initiated as a bard. I pledged to use my creativity for the good of my ‘tribe’ (not language I would now use) and the good of the land. I went into that not knowing what I would be being asked to commit to (not something I’d do these days either). That dedication has become central to what I do with myself, although it has played out in many different ways. It’s what I’m for.

Something like eighteen years ago I stood in the museum and art gallery in Birmingham in front of a small baked clay image called The Queen of the Night – probably a depiction of Ereshkigal. It was a gathering organised by The Druid Network. I had an overwhelming sense of being called to walk in darkness, and I accepted the call. I’ve walked a lot of dark paths since then, bringing back what I can by way of maps for others to use. It’s been hard, far harder than I could ever have imagined, but I’ve managed to do something useful with it here and there and perhaps that’s enough.

I’m not at all sure when I made my Order of the Yew pledge but it was in the same timeframe. This order was held within The Druid Network – I’ve not been involved with either for a long time. The Order of the Yew was very much about making dedications, and I started out with something long and fancy and probably rather self-important. I took myself far too seriously back then. At some point I came back and replaced it with a simple dedication along the lines that I would undertake to love as much as I could for as long as I could. It stuck to me, that one.

Of the three, it’s been by far the hardest. I’ve broken down repeatedly to places where the amount of love I could put into the world really wasn’t much at all. I’ve given from a state of being hollowed out and exhausted for extended periods of time. I have committed, over and over to loving with an open heart people who I knew perfectly well would not reciprocate. I step forward to get my heart broken. If I knew how to stop, I probably wouldn’t because I feel most like me when I’m honouring this dedication.

In theory the key thing with making a dedication in ritual is how much you invest in that dedication and how much you are willing to take it forward. In theory. I’m never sure what to believe about anything, but I can say with certainty that these dedications marked and changed me, and invited things into my life that perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have happened.

Your Druidic practice

I was struck this week by this powerful post about daily practice, routines and needs – https://therivercrow.wordpress.com/2022/08/22/august-update/ such that I felt it was worth me chipping in.

So many pieces of writing on Paganism and Druidry advocate for a daily practice or for specific kinds of activity. Not everything works the same way for everyone and there should be no shame or unease in doing things that work for you and avoiding things that don’t. Some of us need routines to function at all, and some of us find them stressful and unworkable. Honouring nature means honouring nature where it manifests in you which in turn means not trying to force yourself to be something you are not.

It’s all too easy for people who don’t struggle with things to conclude that said things are fine and everyone can do them. At this point I’m largely convinced that phrases like ‘everyone can’ or ‘everyone should’ are strong indicators that the person writing the piece has little awareness of how diverse people are. I’m pretty sure that there is nothing that everyone can or should do in any specific way.

There are two key questions to consider when it comes to how you do your Druidry. Firstly, what does your Druidry do for the world? And secondly, what does your Druidry do for you? The answer to the first question needs to be some form of good, and it can be any form of good. The second answer needs to be about how you are affected, be that in body, heart, mind or spirit. Your druidic practice should give you comfort, inspiration, a sense of purpose, or relationship or connectedness. Some of those things, or all of those things. There may well be other good things that you find in your Druidry, but I think these are the core qualities to look for.

It is worth trying things a few times before deciding how or if they work for you. It’s often difficult to make a good decision about something when you’ve had little experience of it. At the same time, it is not the case that there’s any merit in slogging away at something that leaves you cold and does nothing for you just because you’ve been persuaded that you have to do it to be a good Druid. If you get a strong feeling of aversion to something at the first try, there’s no reason to make yourself uncomfortable by revisiting it.

It’s also worth noting that there’s a lot of variety within any given practice and a lot of room to do things on your own terms. If what one writer or teacher has to say on the subject doesn’t work for you, then it may be worth looking around for other inspiration and possibilities. It’s also worth considering exploring things on your own terms. Every Pagan practice out there is something someone figured out, and the people doing the figuring out were not massively more qualified to do that than you are. If you’re willing to put in the time exploring and experimenting, then you are going to become an expert in the thing you are doing.

Druidry for your soul

Most of my focus when I’m writing blogs is about how to put Druidry into action for the benefit of people and planet. This is partly because it was something I pledged to when I first initiated as a bard. However, pouring from an empty cup is seldom a good plan and it is important to think about how we are each nourished, as well as what we might give.

Druidry can give us a focus for bringing beauty into our lives. We can do this by creating altar spaces and through making ritual. We can also use ritual to create peacefulness and to seek inspiration, and we can also approach meditation and prayer with that in mind.

For some people it seems helpful to seek messages and signs in nature. This can be a source of meaninging and reassurance, and if that works for you, that’s great. It doesn’t work for me at all. I find that going out in pursuit of meaning can actually get in the way of having the experiences I need. If I’m out there trying to find something significant I can bring back and work with, I will likely be trying too hard. I may come back with ideas, but the odds of feeling nourished by the experience are slim.

We are all routinely bombarded with messages about productivity. I’m a very ‘doing’ oriented sort of person, and also an ideas oriented sort of person, and if I’m not careful this can turn absolutely everything into work. It is a terrible idea to spend all of your time actively looking for raw material you can spin into something to use. It becomes relentless. Pressure to perform online and to look the part on social media can add to this.

I think it’s really important to have some part of your spiritual life that remains private and personal. Holding some experiences close, and not talking about them or using them in any particular way is important soul-care. We don’t have to turn every part of ourselves into something other people can consume. 

Obviously I’m not going to tell you about the things I don’t tell you about, but they exist. Small, quiet things that are part of my life, and part of my day. I’m trying to figure out how to expand that soul-space and how to make more time in my life for things that I do for me, and for no other purpose. I may come back and talk about the process, but the details I will hold close.