Tag Archives: OBOD

A work in progress

I was recently very inspired by Naomi’s post about the ongoing and unending process of Becoming a Druid.

There is no end point of having become a Druid such that you can sit back and not bother any more. There is always more to know, further to reach, more to love and opportunities for being confused, overwhelmed, awed and inspired.

When I started out along this path, I had no sense of that at all. I was a somewhat spiky young human and I had a great deal of need to prove some things. Part of the process of becoming has, for me, involved a process of letting go. When I started, I needed to get to the place (wherever it was) where I would be recognised and taken seriously. I was generally short of feeling recognised, valued or taken seriously and being in my early twenties really didn’t help with that.

I imagined that achieving Druid grade with OBOD would Mean Something. When I got there, I would Be something. By the time I got there I realised I was just beginning, but had also come to feel very cheerful about that prospect.

When I started out, the idea of it taking nine years of study to become a Druid historically, frustrated me. Of course I could do it faster than that! I could work harder, try more, be cleverer than anticipated and shave a few years off. And now, having been doing this for a lot more than nine years, I feel further away from the imagined goalposts than I did when  started, and also entirely at ease with that. It just doesn’t matter anymore.

I am regularly surprised and delighted by how much I do not know, and by how much I have to learn. I am smaller and less able than my younger self could bear to acknowledge. I’ve come to accept that I do not have to know everything, or be brilliant in all ways and that’s incredibly liberating. I am not required to magically have the answers and there are no guarantees yesterday’s answers would hold up today, anyway.

There is nothing to do but show up with an open heart, willing to explore, and to see what happens. Always a work in progress, only finished when dead (assuming we stop then, and I’m not actually sure). Always becoming.

We have such a success and achievement orientated culture. It has taken me a lot of my more than nine years to unpick that a bit, and stop obsessing about being qualified. It is enough that today there is sun, there will be orchids and good company and I have laundry to do. Hello sun. Hello orchids. Hello socks… The mysteries of existence are great, and numerous, and there is no dishonour in being a small thing muddling along in a state of wonderful bemusement.

Vote for the Conservation of the Glorieta Stream

© Jesús Ortiz

Guest blog by Adam Brough, a member of CEN   CEN is an association in Tarragona, Spain working for the conservation and improvement of habitats and biodiversity.

One of our projects is the conservation of the Glorieta Stream, which became a finalist in the category of Alpine projects, and could receive support from EOCA. But this depends on a public vote accessible to anyone over the Internet.   The aim of CEN’s proposal for the Glorieta “is to guarantee the long term conservation of the Glorieta stream headwaters. The site is protected by the Natura 2000 Network of the Prades Mountains. The deep pools, long waterfalls, and turquoise waters are admired by thousands every year, including those that come specifically to hike and canyon. The area is rich in endangered species such as the white clawed crayfish, red tailed barbell and white throated dipper. The main threats are the increasing numbers of visitors, litter, graffiti and damage caused by visitors, and exotic invasive plant and animal species. Through CEN, this project will organise several clean up events, remove invasive species and raise awareness amongst local schools and businesses about the importance of the area. It will also negotiate with groups to regulate canyoning and fence off the most sensitive areas and highlight ‘safe’ routes and responsible behaviour.”

To vote for and get more information about the Glorieta stream visit this page: http://www.assoc-cen.org/Glorieta_eng.php

To get more people voting we ask that you pass this on to friends, family and other contacts through email, social networking sights, blogs, etc.. Thanks!

About EOCA’s project voting: http://outdoorconservation.eu/project-info.cfm?pageid=19   About CEN: “The association for the Conservation of Natural Ecosystems (CEN) is a non-profit organisation, whose objective is to work for the improvement and conservation of habitats and biodiversity. “…the CEN association develops projects to study and conserve natural ecosystems and makes a serious effort to raise the awareness of citizens of the necessity to respect the environment.” More information can be found on their website, in English here: http://www.assoc-cen.org/index_eng.php   Adam Brough is a British expat living in Spain. He’s always been interested in nature conservation from a young age, studying it in Sussex, England. As well as being a volunteer and board member of CEN, he lives and works in a private ecological project, Biosfera2030. He is a member of OBOD, studies psychosynthesis and ecopsychology, and regularly writes about his life and reflection in his blog, Druid in Training: http://www.druidintraining.wordpress.com/


If you are able to reblog this, please do as there aren’t many days left to get the word around.

Being Grounded

It’s not always easy to see what is missing from your life or sense of self. Sometimes, absences are only properly visible if you know what presences look like. Since last summer I’ve had a bit of a journey with this one.

It started with my volunteering for OBOD. I’ve been a volunteer before, but I’ve never felt trusted in the way that I do now. I’ve never felt confidence before, that I was doing enough, giving enough, being a valuable enough part of the team, and there was always that feeling of being watched in anticipation of my messing something up. I think this has everything to do with the culture at OBOD, where there’s a careful vetting process, but a person who has been accepted and trusted to do their job, is then trusted. I find it a lot more functional, and makes for a far happier working space. If I messed up, there are structures that would catch this.

I’m in an emotionally secure relationship based on mutual trust and respect. There is no sense of conditionality, no need to bargain. A feeling of having a place to belong where I am welcome and wanted. Being in this landscape encourages me to feel rooted, in a way that I haven’t for a long time, too. Again, that sense of belonging and being welcome.

It’s not been a smooth ride in terms of friendships and communities, because I made some significant mistakes. However, having recognised those, I’ve learned a lot about my need for people who are able to accept and work around the things I struggle with. Friends who don’t keep me up late reliably, and who either don’t trigger distress in the first place, or respond to it with compassion, rather than telling me they can’t be bothered with walking on eggshells. If I am not worth making some effort for, it occurs to me, then there is no reason for me to stay.

I have an increasing sense of belonging to a tribe that is glad to have me as a member. There have been too many times in my life when I’ve felt like an imposition, when no matter how hard I worked or how much I gave, I felt like a second class participant, and was given to understand how generous people were in just putting up with me. There were people who told me how difficult I was, how demanding and unreasonable, such hard work for them. I was to be grateful for the sacrifices they made in order to accommodate me. There weren’t many of them, but they were all too often people with power and influence in my life. Not any more.

I eventually worked out that if someone finds me desperately difficult, depressingly hard work and that being around me is tantamount to martyrdom, then the answer is for me to step away from them. I do not need people who feel noble and self-sacrificing about putting up with me. What I want are people who like having me around, who trust and value me, enjoy my company, find me a good part of the mix. Where I have that, I get to feel welcome and like I belong, and increasingly that’s how things are working, not least because I’m no longer tolerating the other thing.

A person who is not valued and respected, cannot root properly in their community. None of us are perfect, all of us have shortcomings, weak spots, bad days… the person who is scapegoated for that, and constantly reminded of it no matter what there is to balance it up, always gets to feel like an outsider, an imposition. I am increasingly conscious of the direct link between not feeling valued, and not feeling any sense of belonging. It’s been there my whole life; an absence that has taken some identifying. Up until very recently, what I carried was a sense of just innately not being good enough somehow. Not a person who deserved a place. There are enough people in my life who have treated me otherwise, that I’ve become able to think about it differently, and to pick out the minority whose attitude left me feeling outside the tribe for so long. A rethink of who I am, where I fit, who my people are, and a lot to consider about how we treat each other and construct our communities.


For the ancient Celts, exile was worse than death. It makes sense – for a culture that believed in reincarnation, death was not such a big deal. The honoured dead remained part of the community, their memory kept alive by story and song. To be exiled was to have no place to belong, no one to remember your deeds, it was to lose your land, your identity, your whole place in the world.

These days, exile might not seem like such a fearful thing. That, however, rather depends on how you relate to the process. Should you be willing to shrug your shoulders and move on to next town, where you aren’t known and you can start over then no, exile from a place doesn’t mean much. If you have a deep relationship with land that could be sorely compromised by broken relationships with people, it’s a whole other thing. If your sense of self is embedded in being part of a particular group – often true of religious people – then exile or excommunication can be deeply damaging. If you are the sort of person who feels keenly a need to belong, to be accepted and know where you fit, exile is disaster. The loss of a job can easily be exile from community on just these terms.

I’ve been through experiences that felt a lot like exile to me. The social group from my teens disintegrated, inevitably, and I left the area too. Something was lost that could not be returned to, because it no longer existed. That was my first taste of what it meant to have nowhere to belong, and it took me a long time to get over it. The community in my geographical area during my twenties was lost to me when I had to leave. I kept what lines of communication open that I could, but it’s not the same as being with people. Those were just circumstantial. Nothing personal, just life. Not my fault.

Three years ago, I felt like an exile from the Druid community. That was all about me – not about anything I’d done wrong, or badly, I might add, but a knock on from being in crisis and seeming like a liability to others as a consequence. For a while I had no idea if I could even call myself a Druid any more. Interventions from other people in the Druid community made me realise that it wasn’t a case of exile. It’s taken me three years to piece together what happened, but most of it came from just one person. It doesn’t take much. I’ve seen that with other people, too. When you really care about something, when you’re really invested in it, heart and soul, then the smallest push out of the communal circle has far greater impact. For anyone holding positions of authority and leadership this is a vital point to bear in mind. Anyone who is serious may be far too easily persuaded that you don’t think they are good enough. Most people are not ego-maniacs, riddled with delusions of grandeur and feelings of self-importance that allow them to shrug off suggestions that they can’t cut it as a Druid, don’t belong, aren’t good enough or aren’t welcome.

Experience of wider culture has brought me into contact with a fair few people who habitually use sledgehammers to crack walnuts. People who hammer home the point because they expect not to be listened to or taken seriously if they are gentle. People who shout and demand when they should go softly and ask nicely. I assume that’s underpinned by a lot of insecurity, but when you get that in people who are visible and dominant, the result can be a lot of people disempowered and slinking away into exile. It’s not good.

I, for one, am a walnut; sledgehammers really aren’t required. I watch what I do, all the time, wanting to make sure I am fair, properly understanding things, not hurting anyone needlessly and so forth. A word if I get it wrong will have me running around trying to put things right. Get out the sledgehammer, and I will shatter, and there will be nothing much I can do after that point.

It’s been a very odd ten days or so. I’ve lost something that mattered to me, but in the same time frame, someone else who I very much admire, value, respect and feel inspired by has moved deliberately towards me, asking for more of my time and creativity. (Thank you, Talis).

When the Druid I had been following turned me away 3 years ago, Philip Carr Gomm swept by and offered me a place at OBOD, where I had studied years before. Not a huge fanfare, but a listing for my book on the OBOD site, and a celebrant listing, and a feeling of having a place to be, of being wanted and valued and not out beyond the edges of community after all. Community is never about the opinion of one person, no matter how important or in charge they seem to be.

I think the moral of this story is that if one person demoralises you and pushes you away, even if they seem to have power, don’t believe that they speak for the community as a whole. They probably don’t. In my experience, not at all, in fact. And if you do lead, bear in mind that exile was supposed to be a punishment for the most serious crimes, for the things that could not be rectified, where no restorative justice was possible. Not for minor offences, real or imagined, and not as a way of propping up your own sense of importance.

Slowing down for Druidry

With hindsight I can see a number of things going on with me when I first came to Druidry, that I would not have admitted to myself at the time, but which I suspect will affect others, too. When we’re doing a new thing, we tend to make public our success, progress, and joy in it. It reinforces the work and makes us feel good. The reality may well be more complex, but if no one else speaks about it, we hardly want to bare all and risk flagging up that we are wrong or different in some way.

I came to Druidry having gone through the formal education system with enthusiasm. I knew how to study, and how to learn. I could absorb ideas quickly and formulate new ones. When I started studying with OBOD, my impulse was to run through as fast as possible, learn it all, get the qualification, do that with all the grades, and then be a proper Druid. I needed those qualifications, I thought, so that people would take me seriously. Fortunately the folks at OBOD clearly know all about this one, because you only get four lessons at a time and they will only turn up once a month. There is no way to rush ahead, hurrying towards faster qualifications. At first, this really bugged me, I felt frustrated, unnecessarily slowed down.

Somewhere in those first months I started to suspect there was more to being a Druid than learning the contents of a course and getting a shiny certificate. Unlike everything I’d ever been taught before, this wasn’t going to be all about doing as much as I could, as quickly as possible and then being graded. The work was not about achievement in the world, but changing myself. Yes, there were things to learn, but far more importantly, there was a process to experience, and that called for doing, and doing at the right speed.

The idea of slowing down terrified me. All those years in the school system being taught how to run and hurry, to push continually and to do it faster… slow meant stupid. Slow was what lazy people did, and people who were not going to pass the course. I had been entirely indoctrinated with the belief that fast was good and slow was almost immoral. Noticing that maybe the prestige of speed wasn’t an absolute truth, came as a bit of a system shock. I had to re-evaluate my life. I had learned that I must always be busy and visibly productive, the idea that important work could be done by sitting quietly was alien and alarming. Meditations and rituals simply don’t work if you take them at a break neck pace.

I still struggle with those old impulses. I still catch myself looking for external proof of success, I let myself forget that worldly success cannot be equated with being a Druid, in which the only measure of success is whether you make the time to show up and do the Druid stuff. Other religions have deities keeping score and an afterlife dependant on racking up enough points. We don’t have that. There is no point of achievement, no ultimate qualification, no externally sourced title or anything else to aspire to. Being a successful Druid means being someone who brings their Druidry into all aspects of their life. Speed is not of the essence.

I still feel like I need to fill my every waking moment with productive activity. I was trained to be a worker bee, and the sense that to be inactive is to be lazy is something I struggle to shake off. In busyness, life is filled with noise and action, but if nothing underpins the activity, it is hollow and unsatisfying. When what I do is meaningful to me, when it is well considered and part of something bigger, I tend to be happier. Time to reflect and ponder, to draw breath, evaluate and plan results in me working more efficiently. I get more done, and the things I achieve are more relevant to my aims and generally more useful. I’ve learned to value good work over the appearance of very busy.

These days there’s no one who would complain if it didn’t look like I was busy enough. I am judged on the results I get, in various aspects of my life, but how I get there is my own business. Quality has become far more important to me than quantity. In slowing down, I have become more in control of myself, and there’s a lot of power in that. The process of running as hard as you can, ticking off the next qualification before sprinting to the next, or the next promotion, or some other gong to acquire, keeps us busy. Always doing, always productive, we aren’t thinking or deciding much. The person who is always running never gets time to stop and think. It’s part of the power of Druidry that it shows us how to slow down and take control of our time and lives.

OBOD adventures, further

I announced some weeks ago now that I had decided to apply to see if I could be an OBOD tutor, and that I’d post along the way to talk about how that goes. So, I’m in process now. I’m not going into the details of the process, that doesn’t feel wholly appropriate nor do I think it’s likely to be of much interest. But there is a process, and I’m finding it a gentle and helpful one. This is not especially surprising as it goes with my experience of OBOD to date. Helpful, informative, gently testing to find out what I am and where I fit.

I like how supported this all feels. I like the strong sense I have that I’m entering a community in which I can both enable others and be supported in doing so. My wider experience of volunteering has had a very different sort of vibe to it – one of the most difficult things for volunteers is not having the back up to be sure of what you’re doing, that you’re on the right track and so forth. I’ve been places where volunteering was intimidating and felt exposed. I’ve plenty of experience of things I barely understood being dropped on me, and having to learn on the job to the detriment of those who got me during the teething period. I should add this isn’t exclusively a Paganism issue either. Often the problem is that volunteers are in such short supply that people don’t have time to properly train and support those coming in, there’s too much fire fighting going on already. It’s a long way short of ideal.

It’s lovely to find that with OBOD, I’m stepping out onto a path, already very clear about the existence of safety nets and knowing that I will not be expected to fly on my own until I’ve got the experience to realistically do so. And even then I’ll still be part of a wider, supportive community. I feel very, very positive about this. The time frames are not stressful looking. I don’t have to be up and running in a matter of weeks. I’ll be doing some practice work over the next month, and then some reading, and then we go from there. I’m looking forward to the challenges. I’m also looking forward to revisiting the study material from years ago, knowing that I’ll be working closely with that, for some time to come. Opportunities to go deeper, and to see thing through other people’s eyes abound.

My biggest fear around undertaking this, was that I simply wouldn’t be acceptable. It’s a deeply held, longstanding fear that pertains to pretty much everything in my life, nothing OBOD specific here. I worry about not being good enough, and testing that is always intimidating. I’m coming to learn that yes, there are places I do not fit, and yes, there are people who are not going to be ok with what I do and how I do it, but no, I am not innately an exile, I am not that which does not belong anywhere. It’s just a matter of finding the right places and people, and apparently I’m getting better at that.

Being vulnerable

There are limits on what you can do by playing safely. The person who does not want to expose themselves to risks doesn’t get much done. Any undertaking to do a thing, courts disaster. It gives us opportunities to fail, to be knocked back, humiliated, and made miserable.

I’ve been submitting works to publishers on and off for about fifteen years now. It doesn’t get easier. Granted, I now have more ‘yes’ letters than I did, but I still get a lot of rejections (mostly around short stories). Every time I send a piece in, even if it’s to a publisher I’ve worked with before, I’m acutely aware that ‘no’ is an option. It doesn’t stop there. Books get published, only for readers to hate them, and with the internet it’s really easy to take that hate to the author.
Putting things out in public invites criticism, and I’ve had some harsh ones over the years. One reviewer called an early piece of mine ‘repellent’ and that stayed with me. I don’t have a thick skin.

Bardic work means standing up in public and exposing your work, your inspiration, your soul, to scrutiny. Sometimes it goes wrong. The voice breaks. Words are forgotten. A string snaps. Someone in the audience undertakes to be rude. And again, it only gets slightly easier with practice, and performing always brings you into situations where people can really, seriously hate what you do.

Creativity is a very personal thing. A lot of self and soul goes into it, and not having that recognised and honoured can be agony. The cake that nobody liked and the epic cleaning job nobody noticed. The flowers that barely got a word of recognition, the ritual no one thanked you for… creativity is not just about obvious arty stuff, it’s about the making and the inspiration in all aspects of our lives. Sharing it makes you vulnerable. Not sharing isn’t an answer, because you remain untested, never confident you’re good enough, afraid of being knocked back, or of holding too high an opinion of yourself. We fantasies about the praise and applause, but it’s never enough. Imagining we could be good if only we dared becomes soul destroying itself after a while, just another delusion to cart about. No one respects the book you know you could write or the career you would have had if only…

So this week I answered some questions for OBOD about why I’d like to be a tutor for their course. I’ve exposed myself to being looked at, tested, considered by whatever means seems necessary or appropriate. Last time I did that (an editing job) I didn’t even hear back, not so much as a rejection letter. Well, I know the OBOD folk can and will do better than that.

The day I stop asking if I’m doing a good enough job, if I could do better, is probably going to be the day I stop breathing. The idea of resting on your laurels never made any sense to me. I always have to be pushing to do more, and better, on whatever terms I can. I don’t enjoy being tested, but it’s inevitable. The alternative is to create a little reality bubble in which I am the only person who judges what I do. Sure, that way I would never have to believe that anything I did needed work, but I wouldn’t improve much. I care more about doing things well than about being able to pretend to myself that I’m there already.

In the meantime, never under estimate the power of saying encouraging things and praising the stuff you love – the cake and the craft item, the story and the song.

Druid Adventures

I mentioned a couple of days ago, that I was plotting something, and after some reflection, I’m going to blog the process, whatever it is, even if it doesn’t work out the way I hope it will. If things go to plan, there’s going to be study, and scope for some really productive service. I love studying, so am hoping for things to get my teeth into, and the direction I have in mind could bring some really good challenges.
Of course the flip side is that trying can mean failing. Which is why I’m going to talk about the whole thing.

I’m in the process of applying to become a tutor for OBOD.

I completed the three grades some years ago, and I enjoyed the process. It was challenging, sometimes pretty hard (the Ovate Grade I found emotionally very difficult.) Progression through the grades is not a given. Many people just don’t finish the Bard grade anyway. If you complete it then you can move on to studying the Ovate material. At the end of the Ovate grade, you can fail. It is possible for someone to say no to you carrying on.

I had several tutors on the way through. My Bardic tutor was totally awesome and really helped me. I’d been set back by some bad teaching, and needed help rebuilding my confidence. I’m not a passive receiver of other people’s truths, I need to test and challenge, and what my tutor for that grade gave me was a safe space in which I could do just that, and be accepted. I struggled more with my Ovate Tutor, he had things going on in his life, we weren’t on the same wavelength, and I discovered he was moving out of tutoring, so that was a very different experience, but I got through. In the Druid grade I didn’t have much contact at all. I’d found my feet.

Talking to other OBOD students, I’ve come to realise how critical the good tutor-student relationship is to the whole process. The tutor you get is one of your main experiences of the Order and that relationship can make or break your studies. Although, even the best tutor can’t fix a student who isn’t really interested enough to try, and the most determined and able students will do ok even if their tutors aren’t so good.

I think I have something to offer here, and I think I could make a meaningful contribution. I’d like to try. It means making the jump, risking the failure, or them not having any use for me after all.
It won’t be my first time volunteering for an organisation. I spent a few years doing things for The Pagan Federation, and for The Druid Network. I was so unhappy at the end of my first round of TDN time, that I didn’t think I’d volunteer again. I hated finding other people judging me over the rest of my life (it’s not like I was doing anything illegal). I don’t want to bring any organisation into disrepute, but its bloody hard hearing that people consider you a risk. Will OBOD consider me a risk? (I have this nasty habit of saying things in public, after all). Can I function inside an organisation? I went back to TDN to do book reviews, because I like reviewing books and because that’s useful to both readers and authors. Going back was really hard. I let because I was insulted, and going back felt a bit like letting the people responsible off the hook. I realised it wasn’t about them, it was about the readers and authors I could benefit by being a reviewer. Service matters to me. There are some very good people at TDN, who I am very glad to count as friends, but it only takes one or two hostile people to make a space deeply uncomfortable. As a consequence, TDN is never going to feel like home for me. Perhaps OBOD could be.

I’ve had my years in the wilderness, my hermitude, and I know, coming to the end of that, how much I do want to be part of a community. I want to feel that I belong, and that there is a place I can give service. I want to be somewhere that values what I do, that accepts I’m a bit chaotic and not keen on keeping silent about things that matter to me. It’s an interesting one, because OBOD seems pretty structured. I can cope with structure, I can work with it, and I think they could find a use for me. We shall see.

The other reason for going this way, goes like this. The back of book blurb for Druidry and Meditation mentions that I’m OBOD trained. As a consequence of this, Philip Carr Gomm got in touch with me, I’ve had some lovely reviews from OBOD, and been invited to contribute to the site. I admire Philip as an author, and he’s a lovely chap. At the time in my life when I felt I belonged nowhere, and that the wider Druid community had no place for me, he sought me out, and that meant a huge amount to me. If I could give something back… that would be good too.

Druid News

OBOD revamp


http://www.druidry.org was one of the first website I found year ago when I started looking online for druid content. I remember it back then as being fairly simple, black and white, lots of text, and very informative.

This spring has seen a radical recreation of the site, with a beautiful new look and a lot of extra pages. It’s well worth going and poking about, for the variety of new articles and resources and the sheer pleasure of looking at it. It’s very useable, and offers a portal to a lot of other online druid content. My awareness of this has a lot to do with having been invited to contribute to the meditation pages – http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druidry-meditation

(Normally I’m going to use Druid News for things that are not about me, but… this is mostly about OBOD)

This revamp comes at an interesting time for OBOD, with the grades having been redesigned in recent years, and the rethinks about history brought by Ronald Hutton’s work. The new site reflects, I think, not only a growing community, but OBOD’s increasing involvement with the wider druid community. There’s a greater offering of resources to not just the membership, but anyone who drops by. It seems to me like a move towards being less insular, more accessible, and I’m interested to see where this new energy within the order takes things.



Share your news

If you want to get your news mentioned here, mail brynnethnimue (at) gmail (dot) com – short and sweet is good, by all means include links. Don’t send pictures, I have a hard time of it uploading anything big and complicated. I’m happy to include events, courses, book releases, new websites, new groups, things druids have been up to, or things you’ve spotted in the news that seem relevant to the druid community. Arty, crafty, musical or literary people with stuff to sell are welcome to present themselves if they can find a news angle. I’m not averse to personal news. No witchwars content, no conspiracy theories, no ‘I know a bloke who met this guy down the pub who said…’ tales. I’m looking for good news where possible. The mainstream does plenty enough of the miserable content already.

Belonging not Belonging

Over the years I’ve been through several groves, half a dozen or so moots, various pagan organisations, online gatherings and lose social groupings. There are lots of reasons for moving on – many groups run out of steam and die of natural causes. Moving area cost me a lot of groups I would not have chosen to leave. But there’s also those harder times when you have to recognise that you don’t really fit and aren’t getting much out of an experience. Or it’s made clear to you that you just aren’t wanted.

I’ve wondered, writing the other posts about my history as a druid, how to tackle this thorny issue. I think in all relationships, including group ones, it has to be ok to leave or to express difficulty. People do not always get on, things do not work. I was, for example, entirely open at the time, about leaving www.thepaganandthepen.wordpress.com where I started druidlife as a column. I wanted my own space, I didn’t want to be responsible for anyone else anymore, and I didn’t want to have to worry about how my words impacted on the other folk there.

When I started druidlife as a column, I wondered if it was ok to call it that. I worried people would think I was speaking for druids and druidry in a way that I shouldn’t. I worried that I might accidentally cause conflict or bring druidry into disrepute. I left pagan and pen quietly, for my own reasons, and I left it with plenty of good people at the helm. At the time I was also fragile, exhausted, close to a total emotional breakdown and being fairly public about having escaped from an abusive relationship. Although I was struggling with responsibilities at pagan and pen, no one asked me to leave, nor would they have done for those reasons.

But somewhere else, other people did. I chose, for my own reasons, not to say much about it at the time. I knew I was dangerously close to breaking point and afraid that I was indeed a liability and that I might indeed bring paganism into disrepute just by being me, and being in trouble. I was also in a place of such low self esteem that I accepted the judgement, and felt personal shame over it. For a while I wondered if I had any entitlement at all to call myself a pagan, much less anything more specific.

Then a thing started to happen. One by one, people from my community got in touch with me. They sent words of love and reassurance, and also words of anger over the situation I was in. They rebuilt my sense of community and belonging, and I learned who my true friends are. What had been a personal disaster slowly transformed into a deep process of changing my perceptions, clarifying my beliefs and making me realise who I could depend on, and who I truly care for. Those of you who were there, should know who you are. I hold a deep and abiding love for the people who did not let me become totally isolated during that hard time. For the people who stood up for me, and who kept talking to me, and who did not reject me just because I was in trouble.

However, I came out of that period thinking that I probably wasn’t a group or organisation person after all. I retreated from involvement other places too. I didn’t want to go through anything like that again. I had rather imagined that I would continue with a community of individual friendships, but not seek to belong anywhere. And then life took another twist. When Druidry and Meditation came out, I contacted a few OBOD folk and mentioned that I’d been an OBODie. In the last few weeks I’ve swapped a lot of emails. I’ve got a blog post to write for them, I’ll be joining their celebrants listing, and they will carry my book in their store. Just thinking about this has brought a lump to my throat. I’m not your classic OBOD type, no white robes here, I’m scruffy, chaotic, unscripted… and they still want me. That feeling of being held by an organisation that has seen some worth in what I do, is worth more to me than I know how to express.

The desire to belong is, I think, a fairly basic one. When I first went solitary we talked on this blog about the degree to which solo druidry is a viable thing. There is such a strong community aspect to druidry, that at first I had no idea how to be a grove of one. I have my family unit, but we don’t do formal ritual. So I recognise that all through the last few years, I have wanted a place to fit and feel welcomed, but had come to the point of thinking it wasn’t even worth an ask. I don’t want to be tolerated. I don’t want to be put up with, grudgingly accepted and kept an eye on in case I do something inappropriate. I want a place to be where I’m accepted, warts and all. I can honestly say I never thought that would be OBOD. I thought OBOD too formal and myself too… all those other things. I never thought any organisation would be so positive about me. There’s the lovely folk at Moon Books too, enthusiastic about my work, pleased to include me. It changes my scope for imagining who I am. It will be a while before I stop looking over my shoulder and wondering if it’s really ok, but at least I can hope.