Tag Archives: druidry

Druidry and Protest

Justice is very much a consideration for Druids, and protest can be part of how we seek justice. However, it’s all too easy for protest to be a sort of self indulgent performance piece that doesn’t lead to change. Shouting some slogans, waving a banner and marching about can feel powerful and important, but that’s not going to result in justice all by itself.

Protests have to be targeted so that the people who should be making change feel pressured to do so. That means taking the action to the right people. Three protestors outside the local bank aren’t going to change the company policy. Three protestors outside every branch plus media/social media coverage have a shot at it.

Protest has to be clear – it’s not just about having a lot of people protesting. You have to be clear about the change you’re demanding. You have to be able to express that in a way that brings people in rather than making enemies. This may be a particularly good area of protest for Druids to engage with, and is certainly where bards should dig in. Communication is vital for making protests work. People engage more with emotive content, but push too far and this works against you. If the emotive aspect of the process makes people feel powerless, fearful or overly guilty, they won’t come onboard.

It is really important to be for something. Protesting can tend towards resistance and being opposed to things, and sometimes that’s really the best focus. However, alongside that, you have to keep a sense of what it is that you are for. Being against things becomes exhausting all too quickly. You can raise up a lot of anger around fighting something, but that is more likely to burn people out than sustain them. If you’re involved in protest for the long haul, this is a really important issue.

For protest to work, there has to be a sense of consequences for the people you are trying to pressure into changing things. It is important to consider the ways in which you are prepared to escalate if your protest doesn’t work. If there’s no threat, the protest can and will be ignored. With politicians, it’s the threat of not being voted for, which means you have to persuade them enough people care about the issue in the first place. With companies, the best threat is the loss of revenue. Sometimes the threat of public shaming can get things done. We know from history that sometimes protests have only worked because they’ve escalated into mass strikes, riots and other forms of violent expression.

Peace is often considered to be an important part of the Druid path. However, genuine peace is not founded on oppression or injustice. A peace maintained by sacrificing the vulnerable, harming the planet or allowing unjust things to occur, isn’t peace, it’s capitulation. It’s important to think about what we’re prepared to put up with for our own comfort, and how much privilege we have when we choose to do that. At the same time, the potential for violence is a complicated issue if your personal dedication is to peace. 

Increasingly I think we’re all going to have to consider how uncomfortable we are willing to be, what kinds of risks we are willing to take and what our priorities are. With physical protest being made harder in the UK, we undoubtedly need to either be more innovative, or more inclined to deploy in huge numbers.

Druidry and the open heart

Something the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids taught me was how to be more wholehearted and open hearted – the two very much go together. Druidry is a world-embracing, life-celebrating sort of path, and to do that, it is necessary to be emotionally open.

That doesn’t mean being obliged to go through life with your heart on your sleeve, totally vulnerable to everything and everyone. Boundaries can be good, helpful, needful things.

That said, as a younger human I was decidedly full on, and unboundaried. As a consequence, I was desperately vulnerable and took a lot of damage, to the point of becoming unable to meet the world in an open hearted, wholehearted sort of way. 

I have missed that version of me. I have missed my own courage and ridiculousness. I like me better when I’m throwing myself wholeheartedly into things, without fear of the consequences. This year I’ve started doing that again, I think in wiser ways.

The world is a big place, there are many souls in it, unthinkable amounts of possibility and more options than you can throw your ogham sticks at. Open hearted and wholehearted still gets a vote in where to direct that. It doesn’t have to mean being buffeted endlessly in any and all directions. It doesn’t mean having to welcome everyone who seems to be moving towards me. There are, after all, only so many hours in a day so it makes sense to pick the directions I’m going to hurl myself in.

I’m picking my directions, and I’m hurling myself. I’m open hearted enough at the moment to be able to love the brightening blue skies of spring and the abundance of wildflowers out there. I’m back to being able to take giddy joy in a song and to get excited about the idea of doing things. Having spent far too long feeling empty, I’m finding there is a capacity to pour something of myself into the world again. It no longer feels like bleeding out. It feels like becoming a spring, or a well and having a flow within me that I do not need to protect. 

The experience of flow is vital when it comes to being a spiritual person in the world. You can’t pour endlessly out of yourself with nothing coming back in. The quality of what you’re experiencing is, over the longer term, going to inform what you can do. None of us exist in isolation, and that web of connection Druids like to talk about is extremely relevant when it comes to us as individuals.  You can’t be a meaningful part of that web if you can’t show up and be open to it.

When we’re lifted, supported and nourished we can do more. When what’s around us is grim and exhausting, our own resources will be depleted by this. It’s worth looking at the kinds of psychological and emotional ecosystems we’re operating in. Where is it possible to build virtue cycles, so that good things can be built on top of each other? Where is it impossible to make any meaningful change? 

Increasingly, I’m looking for the spaces and relationships where it’s all about lifting each other. I’m identifying places where turning up wholehearted gets something done. Rather than hurling myself at situations that are like brick walls and rows of spikes, I’m hurling myself at spaces where if I play a tune, someone else might feel inspired to dance.

Navel Gazing and Druidry

I talk a lot about the idea of living a deliberate life and the way in which this calls for self awareness. Can we go too far with that? At what point might it become an issue?

Navel gazing can be defined as ‘self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view.’

If you feel that you’re doing this, then that’s something you are entitled to judge and are free to change. However, if the judgement is from someone else, it’s not so clear cut. If you’re looking inwards rather than dealing with issues or handling duties, then it might be fair to have other people call you out on it. If other people simply don’t like how much time you’re spending on looking inwards, that’s their issue, not yours.

Spirituality and philosophy require time spent looking inwards. Creative processes call for introspection. Building self awareness takes time, and the less you’ve done of that, the more you might need to do just to get things started. Investing time in knowing yourself and understanding yourself is time well spent. If you’re so involved that you fail to meet other needs of your own, and/or those of people depending on you, that’s a sign to scale back. You can go too far with this, and I’m aware of people who have damaged their mental health by spending too much time going inwards. 

How much is too much? All day, every day certainly is. An hour or two every day devoted to inner work certainly won’t do you any harm. Occasional deep dives – as with retreats, day long workshops and the like – are also fine. Trying to live inside yourself all the time doesn’t work. Who we are is very much about how we interact with the world. Retreating from the world to examine that is a good thing, retreating from the world as an ongoing choice robs you of too much of who you are.

I think the ideal is to get into a rhythm where you spend time being active in the world, and then spend some time reflecting on those experiences. Our bodies need time to rest, and taking time for reflection also supports physical health. We learn better when we take time to consolidate knowledge and experience. Our brains are calmer if we give ourselves time to process what’s happening to us.

It is well worth being alert to the kinds of spiritual approaches that push us inwards and encourage us to reject life. We are beings with bodies, and showing up as our bodily selves is really important. As a Pagan, I do not see the flesh as something to overcome. This body is who I am in the world, and I want to honour that. Introspection helps me think about how to show up as a whole person. I think about how I want to be in the world and how I want to engage as an embodied being. I listen to my body to try and work out what I need, and what’s good for me.

One of the questions I make a point of asking myself is where I am going with my thoughts. I’ve struggled a lot with anxiety, and I know how easy it can be to get locked into very inward processes fuelled by fear. I try to avoid relentlessly chewing on things I can’t change or even predict. I make a point of focusing my thoughts on things where that thinking might take me somewhere. Depression can make it all too easy to turn inwards in order to beat myself up, but I try to avoid that by deliberately thinking about what I can do to change things.

Introspection of itself can help us or harm us. As is often the way of it, the key thing is to be deliberate in how we use this as a tool.

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.

Druidry and quiet justice

Going in guns blazing to right wrongs can feel exciting. I’ve seen people doing this when it was obvious that they were getting a real thrill out of it, and quite an ego boost. There can also be a strong sense of involvement, group belonging and team affiliation that comes from going on a crusade against the ‘bad guy’. This can all be easily harnessed to enable bullying. 

Abusers don’t just work on their victims. Most abusers will groom all of the people around them, because this facilitates the abuse. It’s the half a dozen people you’ve been really nice to who are most likely to help you deal with the awful person in your life, after all. However nasty it gets, no one wants to believe they were duped into assisting a bully, so there are incentives to keep blaming the victim and keep asserting that everything is ok.

Justice often requires a quieter, more thoughtful approach. The invitation to go in and righteously smite someone is always worth questioning. I advocate for taking the time to look carefully at the power dynamics in a situation. Bullying depends on power imbalances. I don’t have much sympathy for people who write articles in national newspapers to complain about how they’ve been cancelled.

Perhaps the hardest thing to square up to, is how to act when you start to think you’ve been on the wrong side of something. This is a consideration around political allegiances, social movements, and personal relationships. If you’re interested in honour, then owning the mistake is an essential first move.

I think it’s incredibly important to give people the chance to do better at the point when they know better. If someone admits a mistake, there has to be room for them to move forwards. There has to be a willingness to fix things, and the focus here should be on restorative justice. 

If someone has been harmed, then it should not be on the harmed person to facilitate whatever is restorative. Forgiveness is a blessing, not a right and no one should feel under pressure to forgive someone who has harmed them. Sometimes, rehabilitation requires more of a community approach. There are times when justice means holding space and including someone who has previously messed up so that they have the scope to do better.

Anger shows us where the problems are – or it can. Anger can help us hold boundaries and to protect ourselves. It’s also an emotion that is easily manipulated, especially when you are to be angry as part of a group and affirm your group membership through the expression of anger. This can all too easily lead to bullying and violence. If being angry is making you feel good, it’s worth treating that with some suspicion.

If your interest is in justice, rather than self protection, then it’s often better handled quietly and over time. Restorative justice isn’t usually achieved by quick fixes. I’m not even slightly convinced that punishment is a form of justice – except perhaps around poetic justice where people bring it upon themselves through their own actions. Punishment is all about power imbalance, and tends to entrench power imbalances, and it is more often the case that those imbalances are actually unjust of themselves.

Druidry check-in

I find it helpful to pause and take stock every now and then, considering where I’m focused in my Druid journey, what’s important for me and what’s changing. It’s good to review things, to consider the journey deliberately and to think about where I might want to go and whether I need to make any deliberate changes.

Service: This used to be a much bigger part of my path, but I’ve been less involved with activism and with running things in recent years. I’m doing a teensy bit of mentoring. I do my best to help amplify other people, and I continue speaking up about mental health and domestic abuse. Otherwise, my main area of concern is looking at how we tackle things collectively. So many problems – and most especially the climate crisis – are being treated as things to deal with individually when that doesn’t work at all.

Meditation: Meditation, and contemplation have been major parts of my Druidry. I find at the moment I’m tending more towards contemplation and gestating ideas. I need to think about things, to build ideas, to channel raw inspiration into action.

Ritual: Including celebrant work, and having a steady prayer practice, ritual has really fallen by the wayside for me. It’s not what’s calling to me at the moment and I’m fine with that. I don’t have the right spaces or the inspiration at present.

Healing: This is becoming a major focus for me as I work on strengthening my body and doing the things that enable my mind to recover. This is a key underpinning – my ability to connect with the natural world has been sorely limited by how bodily ill I’ve been in the last couple of years. My ability to perform, to do rituals, to travel for events even, has all been compromised. Improving my health will give me a lot more scope to explore the path again, and that’s looking feasible to at least some degree. Honouring nature as it manifests in my own body is going to be more of a thing.

Deity: I have had an ambivalent relationship with deity, to say the least. Those of you who have been following me for longer will have seen the mix of longing and disconnection that has mostly been underpinning how I approach deity. That seems to be changing for me at the moment, and is likely to be a major focus going forwards.

Bard Path: This has always been the centre, for me. The idea of inspiration as inherently sacred, is the heart of my life and no doubt always will be. I’ve had a profoundly fruitful time of it lately in terms of being inspired, having projects I’m invested in and fabulous co-creators to work with. I’m doing more to take my creativity out into the world in all kinds of ways, and I feel really good about all of that. This is what I am for, and this is how I best handle all the many aspects of my Druidry, exploring, expressing and offering to others.

Magic: The idea of magic has always been with me, but depression can be made of disenchantment. Things have changed for me on this score, as part of the same process that has me exploring deity and feeling much more inspired. It’s become possible to have room for wonder, enchantment and a sense of possibility – partly because I’ve been surfacing from the depths of depression, and partly as a thing that has helped me pull out of the depression. I suspect this is something I’ll be talking about a lot more once I’m further into the process and have a better understanding of the mechanics.

Practices change over time. Druidry is a very large forest with a great many ways through it and a great deal to explore. Staying in one part of that is just as valid as wandering about.

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.

Druidry and the Darkness

Druidry and the Darkness is a book I wrote over a period of more than a year, enabled by my Patreon supporters. Thanks to that support, I’m in a position where I can simply give away copies of the ebook. If you’re in need of some reading material and can’t afford to buy books at the moment, please take a copy and have a look at the other free reads in my store. https://ko-fi.com/s/9c84aba733

Happily, quite a few people picking up the book have dropped a few pounds in the hat for it, which works well for me. If a few people are able to support me either with Ko-fi donations or via Patreon, then I can afford the time to keep going with the authoring. This is not an industry that pays most of its creators enough to live on, so finding work-arounds is important.

Druidry and the Darkness is an exploration of how humans interact with the darkness, and with nature as it manifests in the darkness. I look at different flavours of darkness, seasonal darkness, the language we use to talk about darkness, and many different ways of exploring and encountering the dark. I’m especially interested in the idea of darkness as a form of wildness, and how we can bring more mystery into our lives by seeking the wild darkness.

Just to give fair warning, my first review for this book described it as ‘very yawn’. They were disappointed that it wasn’t an edgy, exciting book about ‘dark’ psychology. A major point of writing this, from my perspective, is to try and take apart some of the things we humans project onto the darkness and to look at the harm that causes. As a consequence, what I’ve written is a contemplative sort of book that is primarily about interacting with specific aspects of the natural world.

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.

Justice on the Druid path

It is important to think about what we do in the name of justice and not to assume that the desire for justice of itself guarentees anything about our actions or the impact they have.

There’s nothing like righteous indignation for making a person feel powerful and important as they lash out. That can be alluring and addictive. It’s important to be sure at the very least that you’re lashing out at the right person – someone who has the scope to fix a problem. All too often the person who gets lashed out at is the one who happens to be nearest and easiest to hit. Shouting at a low paid employee over decisions other people have made regarding the company they work for, is not a just action.

The internet gives us a steady supply of opportunities to lash out at other people in the name of justice. Online it’s easy to hit people who are vulnerable. It’s also easy to pick on people who are actually doing good work and care about getting things right but do not meet your standards in every imaginable way. By this means we can end up knocking down the people who were genuinely trying to fix and improve things while ignoring the people who are causing the actual problems.

If you’re in a fight and enjoying it, there’s a lot to be said for pausing to look at that. Are you really helping anything or anyone, or are you just enjoying your own feelings of power? Might you be playing at being a white knight? Are you making yourself feel good and important at someone else’s expense? Who are you talking over? Is there anything important you might have overlooked? What’s the real power balance between you and the person you’re fighting? 

People are seldom persuaded by aggression. There are times when a show of force gets things done and there are times when that may well be the right choice, but it shouldn’t be our first port of call. People are depressingly averse to reasoned arguments and evidence when that goes against beliefs they have invested in. Getting angry with them doesn’t turn them into better people, usually. 

If you can’t fix a problem, or challenge someone who can then often the best choice is example, not engagement. Put your truth into the world. Show your values through your actions. Do something restorative, because that’s often the best form justice can take anyway. If you can’t fix a problem, draw attention to it, try to offset it in some way. Anger is not a direct path to justice. We have to take our anger and turn it into something useful that helps people, otherwise we’re just being self indulgent.