Tag Archives: druidry

Presenting as a Druid

I’m always interested in how we define or experience authenticity, versus when we see things as fake, in ourselves and when looking at other people. For me, authenticity is very much part of what it means to live as a Druid. To act authentically, to show up as a person not just a performance and to connect with people and others from a place of honesty. 

However, as soon as you put clothes on and use words you’re engaged in a process of deliberate choices. Part of being human is how we express ourselves to others, how we want to be seen and understood. There’s a hazy area between aspiration and performance. If I want to become a kinder and more patient person my best bet is to try and act like a kinder and more patient person until the process of doing that becomes ingrained in me and part of who I am. There’s not much difference between that and the person who simply wishes to seem kind and patient acts and either person can mess up and let something else show.

When you look at another person, it is hard to tell if they’re undertaking to fake it until they make it. Maybe they are showing you their most authentic self. Maybe they are a people pleaser trying to perform the role they think you most want them to play. Maybe they are an abuser with a persona that protects them and enables them to groom new victims. From the outside it can be impossible to tell what anything really means. Inherently charismatic people are good at persuading others of their innate worth. Socially awkward people can come across badly but still be full of wisdom and compassion.

Druids who are wise, knowledgeable, experienced and compassionate will often discourage others from seeing them as leaders and authorities. Druids who want to be important may go to a lot of effort to present as plausible leaders and authorities. Some Druids step forward to lead and offer authority because they have valuable skills to offer and want to help people. Some Druids pretend to be humble because they’ve figured out that it’s a good look.

I can’t know what’s going on in someone else’s head. I do know that it is very human to feel judgemental of other people. We get social reinforcement by looking around and identifying people to feel we are superior to, and people to look up to as role models and leaders. How we judge each other may have a lot more to do with our own desires to know where we fit than with anyone’s innate qualities. 

It’s good to think about what we’re attracted to, what we find convincing and engaging and what seems laughable or insubstantial. Are we drawn to beauty, charisma and glamour in our potential leaders? Are we deeper people if we mistrust those things, or is that just a different set of values, prejudices and performance styles at work? Any time you feel moved to say ‘that Druid is superficial and insubstantial’ it’s worth looking at exactly what we’re rejecting and why. Humbleness and self effacement can be just as much a performance as fancy robes, and can be a highly successful one. It depends on what buttons you have to push.

How deliberate is your presentation style? What are you putting into the world as a Druid? How deliberate a performance is your Druidry? Does the idea of Druidry as public performance make you feel uneasy and inauthentic, or might that be an entirely valid aspect of what it means to be a priest, a bard, a celebrant? How does anyone else benefit from our Druidry if we don’t perform it in a deliberate way? Is it enough to live your truth, or is it necessary to make that more visible?

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.

Sunlight and shadow

For me, woodland works in many ways as a metaphor for Druidry. I like the image of Druidry not being a single path, but being many possible journeys through the wood. I like the idea of Druidry as a terrain rather than as something more directional and focused on a goal. We’re in the wood, the wood is the destination, there is no extra special place to get to, no finish line to cross, it’s just about being in the wood.

Of course woods change all the time. They change with the seasons. They change one year to the next – trees grow, trees fall, paths become overgrown, new paths open up. Wild residents change in number, and location. The wood is not a fixed place. The metaphorical Druid wood is also not a static thing.

The other feature of woodland that has long struck me as being a good Druid concept, is that interplay of light and shadow. Across a wood, light levels can vary dramatically. You might find open clearings where the light is bright. Woods can be very dark – at night they cut out a lot of light pollution so you can get proper darkness under trees. Most of the time what you find is this constant and ever changing dappling of light and shadow. I don’t find the way that some people equate light with good and darkness with evil to be especially helpful because both are part of nature. I think Druidry belongs to the dappled and shifting light of woodland, where there is also beauty in the shadows and in the contrast. This is not to say I think Druidry is or should be amoral, more a recognition that everything is complicated and few things turn out to be purely good or purely bad.

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 and Asking Questions

For many people, Druidry is as much a philosophical path as a spiritual one. I’m all for asking questions, and for pondering things, but I think it’s also important to ask questions about the questions.

How much time should we spend on questions that we know cannot be answered? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? There are questions you can kick round forever and never answer. You might argue bitterly with people who disagree, thus adding to the total sum of misery in the world. 

Philosophy doesn’t have to be abstract. There’s no need for it to be irrelevant. One of the best and most powerful questions we can ask is the one favoured by small children – why? Why are things the way they are? Why did this happen? Sometimes it helps to carry on and wonder what it means, but not always. The quest for an abstract or spiritual meaning can be a distraction sometimes. The important question might not be ‘why did I see a thrush today, what does it mean?’ but ‘why do I not see thrushes every day?’

It’s always good to ask if things are inevitable or not. We get so used to our own human structures that we collectively take them for truths and realities. Countries are just ideas, as are currencies. The five day working week, nine to five is just an idea, it’s not our natural destiny as people. Who we include and who we exclude, what we allow and what we deny, what and who we treat as important, what and who we throw away… there are so many questions to ask.

Whatever improvements you want to make in the world, part of the process involves convincing people – yourself included – that change is possible. People can only imagine change is possible when they aren’t persuaded that the current state of things is inevitable and natural.

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.

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.

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.

Following a spiritual path

When I started out as a Druid, around twenty years ago, it was all about self improvement. I wanted to learn, and study and grow and be a better and wiser sort of person. I wanted to serve and be useful and for a while I had aspirations to lead and teach. 

When you start out on a path, there is of course a lot to learn. That learning process is going to give a person a lot of feelings. Once you’ve got the basics, there are questions about where to go next, how to dig deeper, or whether you move on to some other path in search of new insights and excitement. You go round the wheel of the year again, and again and the learning becomes less dramatic.

Increasingly for me, the idea of following a path is just about ambling around having experiences. I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere, and I’m fine with that. I might be wiser than twenty something me was, but not as bold in many ways. I was more on fire back then and I can’t work out whether this is a middle aged issue or something else. I miss being on fire. 

The trouble with being an important Druid is that it doesn’t leave you time for being a Druid. I stuck a toe in the water with that and I did not stay ambitious for very long. The person who leads and teaches and does media work and runs a big Druid order and all of that is at risk if being a full time performer and having very little quiet time for their own spiritual life. Leading a ritual is very different from being in ritual, and I’m not at all sure that’s for me. I also don’t think I’m the only person coming to this conclusion – I see Druid friends adopting parts of the job, but there aren’t any emerging leaders in the way that there used to be, and I suspect that’s a really good thing.

I may be on a journey, but I have no idea where I’m going, and I’m fine with that. I’m sharing things I think are important, but what anyone else does with that is up to them. I’m not claiming any special authority here.

Yesterday it was grey and misty in the hills. Today the sun is out. I show up. I am not called to do anything in particular, and I’m fine with that. I’m here to bring whatever joy, beauty, hope and humour I can, but that’s a considered position, not something I’m claiming divine inspiration for. It is gentler, just being my own small self and not trying to achieve anything specifically.

Druidry and speaking for the land

Reading Julie Brett’s most recent book I was prompted to think about who speaks for the land in a British Druid context. We often call to spirits of place, and I’ve long felt uneasy about going into a place and welcoming the spirits WHO ALREADY LIVE THERE. Julie led me to realise there’s a human aspect to this, too.

There are of course far more Druid groups in the UK than I have stood in ritual space with. My experience is partial, but I’ve never heard anything to make me think it’s untypical. Druids go to places of historical significance, and places that are local and wild, or geographically convenient – it varies.

I’ve never stood in circle with a Druid group that identified who had the most involved relationship with the land and who therefore should speak on behalf of the land. I’ve been in Druid spaces where people from away have spoken with authority about the deities in the landscape as though there were no local Druids honouring them. I’ve stood in ritual where the Druid who literally owned the land we were on was treated to a lecture by someone who did not live there about all the spirits they could see present in the space.

I had one occasion of speaking in ritual in an urban green space. It was a space I frequented – not quite in walking distance for me, but part of my wider landscape and a place I had a fair amount of relationship with. I talked about what a haven the space was for the urban people living near it. My comments were met with derision – you could hear traffic! The Druid in question had never been to the place before and lived many miles away. I was upset, and at the time I didn’t know how to articulate what was wrong in that situation. Also, it was a beautiful green place on the edge of a city and no, it wasn’t pristine nature, but that didn’t make it any less precious in my eyes.

I’ve felt it at a local level too – there are fields and hills here that I know deeply, and other parts of the landscape – in walking distance for me – that are much more deeply known by other people. I’ve had a longstanding urge to acknowledge this and am only just finding the language to talk about it.

Imagine if Druid rituals included consideration of who, in the ritual, actually had the most involved relationship with the land. Imagine what would change if we felt it was inappropriate to go into an unfamiliar space and start talking about it with authority. Imagine if being a senior, Very Important Druid did not entitle you to speak for, or to a landscape unfamiliar to you. Sadly there’s a lot of ego in all of this. It takes a certain amount of humility to acknowledge that the people who live on the land, or have spent a lot of time with a place might be better placed to talk about it and speak for the land.

Whose land is this? Is a really important question. Who are the ancestors of place? Who has a relationship with the ancestors of place? What assumptions do we make when we enter ritual spaces, and could those assumptions stand a re-think?