Tag Archives: Druid

Druids do it in threes

It’s hardly a new joke, but you can usually raise a snicker – even in ritual – by mentioning how Druids like to do things three times. It comes up a lot around ritual repetition. Three is enough times that by the third time, enough people will say the thing confidently. It’s not so many repetitions that it starts to feel silly or meaningless.

On the history side we have the Welsh triads – clever groupings of things into threes in ways that are easy to remember. Which is about as much detail as I feel moved to go into on that aspect! There is also the lure of the three drops of inspiration from the cauldron of Cerridwen.

Threes, and multiples of threes create rather satisfying shapes and forms. Triskels, the awen symbol itself, three is enough of something to make clear that you really meant it, without it getting tedious.

I’m interested in the way that stories can be told in three beats. It’s something I’ve poked about in with little cartoon strips. You have to strip an idea to its essentials to convey it in three beats, and that can be revealing and interesting as a process. Three beats to tell a joke also works well. 

Over on instagram, walls display images three at a time. I like to put my pictures up so that they group in threes – there’s something decidedly satisfying about it. I like the process of working out how to tell a small, visual story in three beats. When I’m working on a craft project, I have to think along the way about which stages of development I want to share. For bigger projects, there are often revisits, sometimes with weeks in between them. For craft, I want to show the story of developing a piece, three beats at a time. Sometimes I share the development of art in the same way. Three images from a walk, or from an event to try and capture something.

Frames can be really helpful for shaping work. Often, the challenge created by the frame itself contributes to the richness. Creativity without boundaries can be messy and ineffective. I like the structure of sonnets, the restrictions of short stories and flash fiction, the limitations inherent in comics pages. I like the necessity of keeping blog posts short and focused. I like the way posting trios to Instagram requires me to structure my ideas.

Me on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/nimuebrown/ 

Getting closer to Nature

The chances are you’ve seen art and photographs of people with wild things. You’re a Pagan, a Druid, and the idea of wild things coming to you is deeply attractive. It would affirm how attuned you are to the natural world. It would prove your Druid-ness. Maybe you could rescue something and raise it. Maybe you could tame something.

It’s a temptation I entirely understand. Wild things are deeply emotionally affecting. There are few experiences more powerful and affirming than having a wild being look back at you and not just run away. These are usually experiences I have at a distance. I don’t try to handle wild things unless they genuinely need my help – getting hedgehogs out of roads being the thing I’ve done most of. I won’t rescue wildlife from other wildlife because everyone has to eat. I will move creatures who are at risk of being harmed by humans.

Without knowledge, skills and the right resources, bringing a rescued creature home is really risky for them. It’s better to get them to a professional, or an established rescue centre if they really need help. It’s always worth considering leaving them to let nature take its course – thus providing someone else with a meal. Decisions about who to help and who to leave hungry should not be based on cuteness. For me, whether the species itself is endangered is going to be my biggest consideration.

If wild things get used to humans, this can make them vulnerable. We can put them in danger if they start thinking humans are safe to approach, or a good food source. We can frighten them, disrupt their lives and cause them harm by trying to get close to them. Often the kindest and most respectful thing to do is to stand still and let the wild thing do as it will if that doesn’t put you at risk either. Enjoy the moment. Wild creatures who seek food from humans can end up being killed for being aggressive and invasive.

The situation is different with semi-wild things – feeding the ducks on the pond in the park is not really going to impact harmfully on them. Birds in your town centre are not going to be compromised, probably. It’s worth noting that seagulls in particular can become aggressive in their dealings with people if they think they can get food. It is important to know what you’re doing, and to know what is safe and appropriate food for any semi-wild things that move towards you. Don’t give dairy to birds. Don’t pollute the water by throwing in loads of bread that just sinks to the bottom.

If we genuinely care about nature and about wild things, one of the best things we can do is not impose. Humans put a lot of pressure on nature as it is, without Pagans trying to live out fantasies in invasive ways. Stay on the path. Don’t interfere with wild lives. Don’t try to feed them your lunch. Don’t steal their babies – leaving young unattended is normal. Don’t deliberately get close to their homes, nests, or dens. Watch them from a distance that keeps them safe.

Social Media Druid

All of the social media platforms you might use have issues of some sort or another. Who owns it, who uses it, who profits from it, and whether how it functions is of any use to you at all are all considerations. If I leave a platform, it will have no impact on the person who owns it and as protests go, it doesn’t add much to the world.

If I stay, I can do considerably more. I can take care of my friends, and of fellow travellers who might be glad of my support. I can put nice things out there – visually pleasing things, nice ideas, inclusive thoughts, compassionate thoughts and hopeful things. In terms of what impact I might have on the world, my day to day sharing of small things is likely to have far more impact than my flouncing off in a huff because I don’t like the technomaniac in charge.

Interacting meaningfully with the world tends to involve compromise. No space is perfect. Our allies are often imperfect. Waiting for the perfect platform is a good way of doing nothing. Doing nothing only ever supports the status quo. I tend to think it’s better to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty doing whatever it is that you can do that might make some small good.

Protecting your mental health and personal safety is a totally different issue. If you need to leave any space for those reasons, don’t hesitate to do it. 

Drama has its attractions. Dramatically flouncing out in protest is one of those big-gesture moves that is always going to be tempting. But what does it achieve? Elon Musk isn’t going to become a better human being because I stropped off from Twitter and left him to it. Twitter isn’t going to take a good hard look at itself and become an inclusive and compassionate space because I said it wasn’t good enough. But if I stay, and in my own small ways try to contribute to a process of making both social media and humanity in general that bit better, I can actually make a tiny contribution to that process.

Anyone can make that kind of contribution. Cultures are just large quantities of people. If we back out of the spaces where trolls and bullies gather, we relinquish those spaces to them. If we stay, and try to make good things,  there are more options. Nothing is going to be perfect, everything is always a bit compromised, or more than a bit compromised. As a small and insignificant entity, I can do more good – I think – by staying and putting up a fight than by leaving. And by ‘putting up a fight’ I mean sharing anything that isn’t motivated by hate.

When embodied spirituality isn’t really an option

I’ve always been interested in the idea of honouring nature as it manifests in my own body. I’m also not very good at it, because my body is a bit of a mess. Doing things that focus on being embodied, or conscious of my body isn’t a great deal of fun when I’m in a lot of pain. Getting out there and putting my body in nature is also problematic when it’s cold, or I’m already sore.

Once upon a time there was a person who was ostensibly all about embodied spirituality and felt that the reason I (and no doubt other people) were hurting was that we weren’t embodied enough. If only we’d spend more time being embodied, the pain would naturally reduce! This of course is bullshit, but there’s a lot of it out there and it needs talking about.

If you have the kind of pain that is caused by stress, tension and failure to look after yourself, then paying more attention to your body will probably help fix a lot of those things. These are not the reasons I’m in pain. I’m hypermobile, it’s a tissue issue, it’s about fundamental structural things in my body. Paying attention to it just makes me more aware of it, which improves nothing. Organising my body to minimise damage and pain is not something I have to do consciously most of the time.

This kind of minimising is one of the more common forms of ableism to show up in allegedly spiritual spaces. It depends on the idea that you would be well if you tried a bit harder, and that’s simply not true for everyone. If you can cure your ills with a bit of mindfulness and paying more attention to your breathing, then you simply weren’t that ill to begin with and it is not a fair measure of what anyone else might be up against. 

Not being cured by doing the spiritual things does not make you a failure as a spiritual person. You might find things to help you manage what’s going on – and you might not – but either way there should be no shame in it.

I’d like to be more embodied, but I can’t do that when my body is difficult to inhabit. These are good times to explore the practices that take me away from myself. There’s nothing unnatural about seeking respite from pain – it’s one of the things sleep is for.

What can my Druidry do for you?

Spirituality of all flavours is often presented as a personal project for personal growth. Achieve inner calm, become inspired, learn how to dance sexy in the moonlight, talk to trees for fun and profit… A great deal of material is sold to us on the basis that by reading/using/burning it we’re going to be better and happier people.

I’m very much in favour of people getting to be better and happier, but I do wonder a lot about the way individualism tends to dominate how we think about spirituality generally, and Druidry in particular. It’s important to ask of everything, ‘what’s in this for me?’ but at the same time that really shouldn’t be the only question.

Who, or what is my Druidry genuinely useful for? What does your Druidry actually get done in the world?

Druids like to talk about webs of connection, the web of life and so forth. It’s all too easy to place yourself at the centre of the web and see what might come towards you along its threads. It’s much harder to think about this web and try to make sense of the impact we have on everything else – both when we’re deliberately doing our Druid stuff, and at other times in our day. 

Reflection is a good thing to make part of your Druid practice. It’s good to ask questions and contemplate the answers. It is well worth thinking about how you are changed by your Druidry, and what impacts that has in the wider world. There are clearly no definitive right answers here, but I do feel strongly that if you can’t see any impact outside of yourself, you probably need to either dig deeper, or start finding ways to apply the Druidry to other parts of your life.

Not quite a Druid staff

Ideally, your proper Druid staff makes you look like you should have been in a Lord of the Ring film, I reckon. Something for striding dramatically into mystical places with, and an aura of being the sort of person who could, if necessary, smite a balrog.

What I’ve got in this photo is the sort of stick people use for hiking. It’s helped me haul myself up a far few hills along the way. I think I’ve got to the point where I’m going to need to default to using it more of the time. 

Walking sticks are great for pushing aside nettles, brambles, and the like. They’re great for dealing with tricky surfaces like slippery mud and loose stones. Having a stick helps me a lot with balance. There are a few things going on with me that affect my balance or can cause me to become dizzy. Having a stick reduces the risk of falling, and being able to lean on it if I can’t sit down is a plus.

Where I’ve always found sticks most useful, is around visual processing. I’m not very good at visual processing at the best of times, and it gets worse when I’m tired. Uneven paths take a lot of thinking about. Going down slopes and steps can be really hard. Sometimes I just have to stop because I can no longer figure out where the ground is, and then whoever I’m walking has to come and rescue me. This happens a lot, and I’m fortunate in my walking companions. I need to get into the habit of having the stick for the shorter walks, too.

I’m good at tactile thinking. My body knows how long the stick is, and by that means, it also knows where the ground is. The same is true for people I am tactile with, whose body shapes I know well enough that I can use that knowledge to make sense of the terrain. It took me a while to figure all of this out and to understand why I get so tired on uneven ground, and why I freeze up sometimes.

It would be nice to have some glorious, dramatic piece of wood to go Druiding with. But on the whole, I need the tool that best allows me to be outside and that isn’t heavy. It’s not a Druid staff because it looks the part, but because it increases my scope to get out there and do the Druid things.

Not being political is also a political choice

What does it mean to be able to choose not to be political? It’s something I’ve seen discussed many times in Druid and Pagan groups – that politics and spirituality are at odds, or that a person doesn’t need to engage, or that not engaging may be the moral high ground.

The first possibility is that you assume ‘politics’ just means supporting a party or turning up to vote. Protesting is political. What you share, or don’t share on social media is political. Everything you spend your money on has political implications. How you treat other people is political. A person can be politically active while never getting directly involved with politics. Tax avoidance is political. Climate chaos is political.

You may not have noticed that politics is being done to you without your involvement or consent. You may have bought into the idea that you are powerless and irrelevant, or you may have been persuaded that all politicians are basically the same so there’s no point voting for them. This isn’t true – granted, many politicians, regardless of political affiliation, are not great people, but less bad is still an improvement. Voting for people who are not actively trying to strip other people of their human rights and who are not personally profiting from the destruction of the planet is a good idea.

It’s easy not to be political when the system is set up in your favour. There are implications to being white, male, cis and straight, and having money and good health. The more boxes from that list you tick, the more likely you are to be served by current politics than threatened by it. Not needing to be political is a state of privilege. Not feeling responsible for the suffering of others is also a choice to consider carefully. If you are alright and don’t really need to do politics, consider the people whose lives are at stake in all of this. Not just people in your own country. If a political expression isn’t likely to get you killed or imprisoned, maybe you could think about the people who are forced out of being politically active for fear of death, imprisonment, and torture.

Doing nothing is not a neutral choice. It is the choice that supports the status quo. It is a vote against change. We live on just the one planet, we are all affected by each other’s choices. The choice to do nothing in face of that has huge implications. If you don’t speak up to protect what you love, then who will?

Becoming a middle aged Druid

When I was a teenager, Paganism seemed very attractive in no small part because it was almost taboo. It wasn’t illegal – I’m not quite that old and I live in the UK! But, being identified could cost you your job. I was in my twenties when changes to European law provided protection from discrimination, to Pagans.

Then of course there were all the books and articles about how to change your life. You too can have magical power, inner peace, a sexy dress and a gorgeous goddess shrine in your garden. I didn’t go very far down the path before it became obvious to me that anyone offering easy enlightenment in five basic steps, or anything of that ilk, was talking out of their arse. I didn’t need to go much further down the path to discover that the people saying the esoteric arts were super difficult and only available to a tiny few and that signing in blood would be required… were also talking out of their arse.

I think it’s natural for the younger humans to seek out more dramatic, more intense, more challenging experiences. I feel very old and tired now and I don’t have the stamina for anything much. I don’t have much ambition, and I certainly no longer see my spiritual path as anything to be ambitious about. I’m not going to do anything especially important as a Druid. Deities do not talk to me or have work for me to do. I am not even slightly motivated to do any more formal teaching, I am not going to set up an order or organise rituals for large groups of people. I write because I like writing and because I find it helps me process my own experiences. I also like feeling useful, and sharing notes on whatever I’m poking about in tends to give me that.

I’m not looking for revelation. I’m not looking for a purpose or a mission. Things that used to seem important to me as a younger Druid just don’t have the same impact now. I spent my time at the wheel there – I taught, I ran rituals, I helped organise community stuff. It’s hard work, and I just don’t have the energy anymore. I’ve become increasingly awkward as I’ve aged, I’m less cooperative than I was and considerably less generous with my time – I have so much less energy now. Service is hard work, if you are the sort of person who shows up and does the work. My tolerance for people who want to ponce about looking important while getting other people to do all the work is not what it used to be.

At this stage in my life, what my Druidry looks like is small and not glamorous. There’s very little drama and not much to report on. I’m focused on living my values as best I can, and doing what good I can but I often feel I can do more good when I’m not overtly wearing the Druid hat. People who already identify as Druids do not need me rocking up to tell them how to Druid better! It’s a laughable idea. People who are not Druids might have considerably more use for me turning up with ideas, songs, creative opportunities and good stories in a way that doesn’t announce itself as ‘spiritual’.

I’m interested in doing what I can to help and support people, quietly, day by day. If that reveals bigger pictures to me then I think it’s useful to talk about it. The Druids of old were, in theory, advisors to Kings and were themselves visible and powerful. I don’t feel that this is the right trajectory for me as an old, and modern Druid.

Just a Druid connecting with nature

I found the mermaid’s purse in the photo, washed up on the beach at Aberystwyth. It was firm and shiny and it felt alive – this is a case for a growing embryo, either a shark or a skate. I think this one was a shark. I wasn’t going to let this baby thing dry out and die on the sand. As I had my frog wellies on, I took the case back to the retreating tide in the hopes that it would be carried away.

That should have been the whole story. Just a Druid on a beach having a moment with another being and then carrying on with their day. But, I did not know this beach, and it turned out to have consequences.

The beach was mostly fine gravel on a steep slope. The tide was clearly going out, but every now and then it threw up a much bigger wave than the retreating ones – this much I already knew having got my legs wet from one of them. I gave the mermaid’s purse back to the sea and turned to walk back up the beach. One of the big waves caught me from behind, fast moving, and washing over the top of my wellies. That was challenging.

The force of the wave as it headed back down the beach was even more powerful. It pulled the gravel out from under my feet and it dragged on my legs. I fell, backwards, into the water. It wasn’t deep, and it wasn’t as cold as it might have been. But, with my feet higher than my hips thanks to the slope, and the shifting gravel beneath me I could not stand up. Fortunately I wasn’t alone. Tom and James – neither of whom were wearing wellies – came straight into the water to get me on my feet and to help me up the sand. We all ended up moist, and I was soaked to the skin from the waist down – with hindsight it was obvious that we should have got in the sea deliberately. We’d have been drier.

I’ve swum in the sea many times, from many beaches on the UK coast. I’ve paddled my feet in the sea so many times. I’ve never had the sea come up at such speed before, I’ve never been grabbed by water before and I’ve never been so powerless before in face of it. It was a startling experience – no harm done, but that feeling of being bodily overpowered will stay with me. Geography and geology interacting with moon pulls and water to drop my (relatively) small mammal self on my bum.

Connecting with nature isn’t always gentle, or simple and it certainly isn’t always restorative!

Winter Druidry

While I try to get outside when I can, winter isn’t a good time for me. I don’t handle slippery surfaces well – mud or ice – and the cold makes me hurt more. It’s not a good time of year for doing outdoors rituals, I can’t sit out. This can make me feel distanced from my path, so it’s useful to review the things I can do in winter.

It’s a good time to read, study, explore ideas and develop skills. I’ve done a lot to develop my writing craft this winter, and I’m learning about different cultures and the different ways in which people use language.

Online activism is always an option. I’ve not been doing so well with that lately.

Thanks to the internet, the winter can be spent plotting and planning. I am doing less in-person community, but I’m making plans for future activities. I’m developing some online ideas that I hope will cheer people. I’ve been talking to my local wassail folk with a view to getting more involved. I’m also exploring some creative collaboration.

While I’ve not written much blog content explicitly about Druidry in the last few months, I could do more of that and I might feel better for it. I have been working on a book for the Earth Spirit line at Moon Books which is about authenticity and sustainability, so that’s been where a lot of my more Druidic work has been happening.

I’m doing a lot of work on my own head. This is about knowing myself, and also about healing. I think I can count this as Druidic work. At the same time I’m learning a lot about how other people interact with the world, which hopefully will help me to be a more understanding and compassionate sort of person.

One of the things meeting up with other Druids always gave me was a chance to affirm my own Druid-ness. So, if you want to jump into the comments and talk about what you’re doing, as a Druid, or in any other way that is important to you, I’m delighted to offer that space. Being off on your own too much can make it harder to see what’s going on in your life. Check ins can be really good for thinking about how things are for you.