Tag Archives: druidic

Connecting with the landscape

Over the last few years I’ve had massive problems with low blood pressure. This has significantly compromised my ability to walk – which is my primary mode of transport. Walking has, for most of my life, been key to how I connect with the land, and with the cycle of the seasons. Not being able to walk far or reliably has been tough.

Not being able to walk has impacted on my sense of self. It’s undermined my confidence, and my relationship with the land, and it’s robbed me of a key part of my Druidry and this has been tough. However, in the last month or so, things have started to shift.

I’m fairly confident at this point that I’ve figured out what’s been causing the problems, and alongside that, how to fix it. I think this is a body chemistry issue, and if I’m right, then solutions are available. Based on recent successful walking activities, the evidence suggests that I’ve cracked it. If that’s really the case then all I have to do now is rebuild my strength and stamina so that I can manage longer walks.

It’s given me back a significant piece of myself. Not being able to relate to my local landscape by wandering about in it has felt like an amputation. I feel more complete and more properly myself for being able to walk. There’s joy in being able to get out into the world, with wonder and small beauties available at every turn. Before I got ill, walking was a major tool for dealing with my wonky mental health as well as it being a significant contributor to how I used to exercise. Low blood pressure is an absolute arse in that it makes physical exercise difficult and actually hazardous, but not being able to exercise makes everything worse. Living in a no-win scenario is not a mood improver.

There’s an absolute joy in being able to walk further and more easily. I’m not as groggy first thing in the morning, and most of the time I’m not needing to use caffeine or sugar to boost my blood pressure in the ways that I had been. It’s a huge relief. I’m starting to hope that one day I might be able to get back to the really big walks that were once such an important part of my life. 

I feel like I’m properly back on the Druid path, after many years of being stuck. I literally have my feet under me, I can bodily walk my path in the way that I want to, and I’m absolutely rejoicing in this.

Unexpected visions and being eaten by owls

Many people seek visions and spiritual, otherworldly experiences in deliberate ways. Obviously if you can find someone to guide you and teach you in person, that’s ideal. There are lots of other resources out there, and with patience and sense, a person can learn a lot from books, guided meditations and so forth.

Of course it doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes things just happen. It’s most likely that unexpected spiritual experiences will come in times of crisis, brought on by fever, sleep deprivation, extreme stress and the like. It’s when life breaks us open that we’re most likely to have these unsought experiences, and to be obliged to question our own sanity. 

When you’ve gone on a deliberate process of visualisation, there’s nothing unsettling about having visions. When your brain feels like it is falling apart because you’ve not slept in days, and you don’t think the wolf you can see is real even though it looks real… that’s a whole other kind of experience. It’s widely said that the difference between spiritual practices and madness is that the spiritual stuff you do deliberately and can come back from on your own terms. I’ve also read a few people exploring what happens to you when what occurs is more like madness. I’ve found Jez Hughes especially helpful on this score, and Gabor Mate has powerful things to say about it too.

There’s a power in being ambushed by the unexpected. When you’re doing things in an organised and controlled way it can all feel like a pleasant psychological process. That can be fine – there’s a lot of benefit to be had from visualising and contemplating in deliberate ways. But at the same time, if you want experiences of wildness, of the numinous, or the divine, that’s never going to feel entirely safe or within your control. Spiritual experiences are often at their most real and affecting when you haven’t actively sought them or tried to shape them.

It helps a lot if you have some support for all of this. If your culture frames visions as insanity, then you have limited options for how to deal with your experiences. It’s good to connect with likeminded people and find what support you can. It’s good to have people you can trust to help you make sense of things in a spiritual context when it feels like you might be going mad. People who can be there for you during the days when you have to get on with your ordinary life even though you have been eaten by owls. People who can help you be in pieces when a spiritual experience has torn you apart in a needful way. People who can hear you when something on the edge of dream stitched you into the landscape.

There are things we cannot be taught and cannot be prepared for. Some things can only be known through experience. I’ve been walking a druidic path for twenty years at this point, and was actively Pagan for years before that. I’ve studied meditation, I’ve taken guided journeys and I’ve read a lot of books. In recent weeks I’ve had to re-learn a lesson about being open to extremity. I cannot both protect myself carefully, and be torn apart by owls. I’ve had quite a few years of living cautiously and being very shut down, and I know that’s changing. 

I’m not here to teach anyone how to do what I’m doing, but I feel strongly called to share the stories of what is happening. I have no definite sense of what my current journey is about, or for, but I do have a strong feeling that I should write about it and share whatever comes to me. I won’t necessarily explain what comes from where, I think I just need to put these visions into the world and trust to that process.

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.

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 and Inclusion

It would be nice to be able to say that Druidry should have room for everyone. In practice, if you try and organise that way, not only will you exclude people but you will be most likely to exclude the most vulnerable and most marginalised people.

Dealing with abuse, aggression and actual threats drives people away. If you have the privilege of not being much affected by other people’s differing world views, you can’t assume that’s true for everyone. Dealing with prejudice and abuse – overt or covert – is at best exhausting and threatening, and at worst damaging and unbearable. People aren’t going to stay for that.

If you include the white supremacist, then when they start expressing those views, if you let them continue then you effectively exclude everyone who isn’t white. If you include the person who thinks all queer people are an abomination, there will very quickly be no LGBTQ people in the room. If you allow ableism, all the ramps in the world won’t get disabled people to stay in that space. If you want to be understanding of the gropy man who doesn’t respect boundaries, you will find women don’t stay in the space. If you allow some people to routinely talk over, ignore, undermine and otherwise treat people with disrespect, those mistreated people will leave.

I would rather include the people who wish to grow community, share fairly and treat each other with respect. If I have to exclude bullies, sexist people, classist people, racist people, and so forth then I’ll do it without hesitation. I’ve been the person who had to leave because they didn’t feel safe. If I’m in a place where I can call out the problem and give people a chance to learn and do better, then I’ll try and do that. But, I’m not going to sacrifice the wellbeing of someone who did nothing wrong for the comfort of someone who was acting badly. If someone has a problem with other people even existing, I don’t want those views in my space. They can do that someplace else, or ideally, they can sort themselves out. There’s a world of difference between not wanting people to exist, and not wanting people to bring their hate into your space.

Doing nothing is not a neutral choice. It isn’t the moral highground. There’s nothing actually Druidic about neutrality outside of Dungeons and Dragons games. Justice is part of the Druid path, and we don’t get justice by doing nothing. To have a just community we have to be willing to protect those who have least power from those who are controlling, aggressive, and unreasonable.

What is a Druid Life?

For me, the key ingredient of a Druid life is that it is a considered life. The processes of contemplation and exploration are really important to me. I think philosophy is something we should do as part of how we live, and that thinking about things is generally a good idea. This is why a lot of the time my blog posts are me poking around in ideas.

That consideration is framed by a number of priorities and values. As someone whose spirituality is centered on the natural world, questions of how to live sustainably and restoratively are important to me. How do we reduce our impact on the planet? How do we protect life? I’m also concerned with social justice, which I think is intrinsic to environmental justice. I try to live my life in accordance with my values, although I’m always learning and always aware that I could do better.

For all of those reasons, I’m anti-capitalist. I think we need as many alternative ideas as we can about ways to work, share, organise and fairly distribute resources. This has me talking about community a lot. I’m also exploring the ways in which focusing on things as individual problems helps perpetuate them when we need community solutions and social change.

I’m exploring the bard path because I think creative sharing is often the better way to engage with people. We’re storytelling creatures and we respond to emotional content. We also need creativity both to enrich our lives and to open us to new and better ways of existing.

The overtly Druidic content is a fairly small part of what I do. Sometimes I write on obviously Pagan and Druid topics, but I find a lot of the time this just doesn’t seem like the best way to do the Druidry. For some years now I’ve felt that Druidry is best served by me doing the day to day things as outlined above, but reading any individual post it might not be obvious why I think the content is relevant. I don’t know how useful it would be to include more explicit notes about why any given thing seems relevant to me – I’m very open to feedback in that regard.

How we live, day to day is more important than the occasional big gestures. What you do as a Druid is what you do at home, at work and in your social circles. It’s there in how you spend your money, how you vote, what you support, what you allow, what you ignore. Druidry is not separate from life, and I’m always suspicious of people who think that their spirituality isn’t political.

If you think you aren’t political it’s because you feel safely in line with the status quo. If you don’t have to be political it can only be because your needs and rights aren’t threatened in any way. You aren’t hungry. You aren’t ill. You aren’t in any danger that you can see – which given the climate crisis may be a serious error of judgement. To be a Druid and to be self aware should include an understanding of those relationships. If you have the privilege not to need to engage, then as a Druid, the issue of justice should matter to you, and looking away only ever supports those who cause harm.

Druidry, integration, disintegration

This is a process I’ve been through a few times now. When I’m engaging with Druidry in a deliberate way, what that means is that I’ll be trying to embed something into my life.  Inevitably there was a lot of this early on in following the path. The more successful a person is at embedding their spiritual work into their life, the less visible it becomes.

If you have a prayer practice, if meditation is part of your life, if you live in a contemplative way, if you deliberately engage with nature, and serve in what ways you can… it can become strangely invisible.  A ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ sort of situation, perhaps.

I go through phases of feeling not very Druidy at all. Often what happens is I’ll then run into another Druid online talking about the history, or the mythology and it will occur to me that I do know a fair bit of this stuff, and that I am living my principles and maybe it’s ok.

Public ritual seems to be the best antidote to these small patches of crisis. Standing together in circle there’s chance to affirm our own journeys and practices, and to remind ourselves and each other what it is that we do, and who we are. There aren’t many things that it is easier to do on your own, I think. Humans thrive on recognition from other humans, from feelings of belonging and involvement. However solitary your path is, there’s something really helpful about getting to check in with other Druids now and then for the affirmation that what you do does indeed make some kind of sense, and does look like Druidry.

It’s nearly 9am as I write this. I’ve listened to the dawn chorus, I’ve been outside in the sun. I’ve held a creative space to nurture someone else’s Awen. I’ve done a teensy bit of online tree activism. I’ve thought about a lot of things deeply, including how best to talk about Neo-Paganism and what it might be useful to say during a talk I’ve been asked to give.

Every now and then I persuade myself that being a Druid is clearly something more glamorous and fantastical than I am capable of. But, that may have a lot more to do with my sense of self than it does with what showing up as a Druid on a daily basis looks like. It’s not only about having fantastic photos of your gorgeous self to put on social media – although that can be an effective way of inspiring people and adding beauty to the world. There’s room. There’s room for what I do and for the sort of person I am.

This has all led me to ask questions about what I might do for myself that would allow me to feel specialness and take more joy in the path. What can I give to myself? What can I do that will help me feel more overtly Druidic? I’m aware I have feelings that if I’m enjoying something too much I’m probably doing it wrong, or am not entitled to that, but this is a story that could be changed. What could I do that would allow me to enjoy being me a bit more?

Druid in nature

Many of the things we might do as Druids to connect with nature have serious impacts on nature. Walk on the bare earth in the winter and you’ll add to erosion. With more people seeking green spaces as an antidote to lockdown, paths get wider, wild plants are deprived of space, and popular spots suffer from erosion from all the footfall.

If you get off the path to really commune, the odds of doing damage increases. The wildflowers, plants and even the soil structures underfoot will suffer, so will anything trying to live in them. We’re less of a strain on wild creatures when we are predictable. Getting off the path means getting into the space where someone else is trying to live. Nature is pushed to the limits as it is, we should question how ‘Druidic’ it really is to get out there and take more of it for our own benefit.

How far do you drive your car in order to commune with nature?

If you light a fire without using a fire dish, you are going to harm the ground. Your smoke may cause harm. Your fire may scorch leaves and branches. If you’ve got a well tended and responsibly set up fire pit in an appropriate place, fair enough. Mostly, having a fire ‘out in nature’ is harmful.

If you leave offerings they really had better be of some use to the wildlife in the area and not an active hazard.  If you tie cloth to a tree it had better be 100% natural fibres, or it won’t break down for ages, and will constrict the tree’s growth. When it does eventually break down it will release plastics into the environment and it will hang about as a choking hazard. Tea lights and the empty cases of tea lights aren’t good for nature. Abandoned food items can be highly problematic. Anything in plastic… anything left in a jar or in a pot or shoved into a hole someone else may have called home… If you haven’t thought carefully about an offering, there’s a real risk what you’re doing is an act of vandalism.

Foraging can feel like a great way of connecting with nature. But how much are you taking? How much can the landscape afford to lose? By all means, eat a few blackberries, snack on a few leaves. But if you come through with a carrier bag to take a great stash of wild plants, you aren’t communing, you’re consuming. Nature is not endless bounty. Nature is something we’re pushing to breaking point and we have to stop imagining we can take anything we want.

How much noise do we take into wilder places for our rituals? How much light pollution do we cause around rituals at night and out of doors? How much do we take? How much do we take for granted? To what degree do we let our feelings of being special and spiritual override any consideration for the realities we’re imposing on the natural world?

Nature isn’t some abstract concept to be worshipped in whatever way appeals to our egos. Nature is living creatures and living landscapes, and suffering from human exploitation. We need to commune in ways that aren’t actively harmful. Don’t let your Druidry be part of the problem.

Druidry and Crafting

I know many Druids are crafters, working with all kinds of materials. For me it’s mostly needles of one sort or another. I thought it might be helpful to write about why crafting can be a good way to manifest your Druidry as part of your regular life.

The most obvious aspect is creativity – crafting puts your inspiration to work, so brings you into contact with the awen. Crafting is as much a home for inspiration as any other creative activity you might undertake. It is a way of making beauty. You can of course add explicitly Pagan or Druidic aspects to a craft project, but even if you don’t, it still works.

Crafting puts your body in communion with raw materials and tools. It can be an animist conversation as you work collaboratively with other beings. It can be a way of being present in your body and present in the world.

Many crafting techniques are repetitive, and once you get the hang of them can have a meditative quality. If you struggle with conventional meditation approaches, you may find that repetitive creative action will open some of that headspace for you. Crafting creates really good thinking space, and can be an excellent way of also making time for reflection, contemplation, wool gathering, day dreaming and the like. This kind of brain time is great for letting inspiration in, for relaxation and being open to possibility.

When you work with materials and invest time, you have a different sort of relationship with the finished item to something you bought. Crafting is a good way to counter the way throwaway capitalism impacts on us. I only make for people I love, and it’s part of how I do gift economy. I also upcycle and re-use a lot, so crafting can be a way to keep serviceable things out of landfill.

Making things is a joyful process. Ending up with something unique is self expressive and again a good antidote to one-size-fits-no-one throwaway culture. It’s a great way to walk your talk, to put your philosophy where other people can see it.

Here’s a recent example from me – fabric salvaged mostly from shirts that were too tatty in places to continue as shirts. Resulting in a bonkers item of clothing that cheers me greatly.

Druidry, language and imposter syndrome

How often do you see a creative person talking about imposter syndrome? Too often. Because we’re not really supposed to blow our own trumpets, be proud of what we do or confident about putting our work into the world. Why is this a Druid issue? Because boasting was part of what our Celtic ancestors did. Because language matters. Because creativity and inspiration are part of the modern bard path. A culture of encouraging people to feel like imposters isn’t healthy.

If you create, in any way, you are a creator. If you write, then you are writer. If you draw or paint, you’re an artist and so on and so forth. The measure of being the thing is whether you do it, and you are also allowed to have breaks from doing the thing without that undermining your identity. If you are doing the things, you cannot be an imposter.

It’s not about how good you are. No matter how good you are, there will always be people who don’t like what you do and people who think you are a bit shit. They are not the measure of your worth.

If you don’t do the things, and claim the title, then feeling like an imposter might be a reasonable issue to have. If you call yourself a Druid but never do anything you can identify as druidic, that would be a problem. If you call yourself a bard, but have never learned a song, or a story, or a tune, never make anything, never do anything to bring beauty and inspiration to the world, then you may in fact be an imposter. The answer to this is to do something.

The other answer, is praise. This again is a very bardic activity and it goes with the boasting culture. Praise extravagantly, praise often, praise with passion and conviction. Get in there and tell people how great they are. Visibly admire stuff. Actively support the people who are able to say good things about their own work. Talk in positive ways about your own work so as to model this for other people. Take pride in who you are and what you do in ways that will help other people feel able to do the same.

No one who is doing the work should feel like an imposter. No one should feel that they have to say they feel like a fake – we really need to avoid having a culture of people not being allowed to respect themselves. If you do need to express discomfort, find other and better words. It is ok to be having a shit day. It is ok to say this piece of work isn’t going the way you want it to. It is ok to say you haven’t done the things in a while and this is impacting on your sense of self. It is ok to be uncomfortable, and being uncomfortable does not mean you are invalid.