Tag Archives: oral tradition

Without a script

I want to talk today about the importance of not depending on a bit of paper in ritual. We don’t know much about the ancient Druids, one of the few things there is no doubt about is that theirs was an oral tradition. Bards and Druids alike expected to dedicate a lot of material to memory. This is a good thing, it means you have the words with you wherever you go, and no one can take them from you. I do understand that modern life tends not to encourage the hard work involved, but if you are serious about Druidry, this is a great place to start with really, seriously, doing it.

Paper is a problem in many ways. In low light, rain and wind, it can be unreadable, so if you were depending on it, you may be stuffed. It is a literal barrier between you and everyone else, it may seem small, but you will try to hide behind it. When you’re reading, you’re thinking about reading, not the meaning, not the people around you or the below or the sky above. With the words in your head, you have space to connect mentally with the space as you bring the words forth. If you’ve learned the words you’ve given time to pondering their depth and meaning, and you will speak them with feeling, insight, understanding, you will bring them to life. Even if you stumble and muff up a bit, it will be more alive. Lastly, if you really work and still don’t feel able to go without the paper, you’ll do a far better job for having tried to learn than if you’d gone the easy road in the first place.

I’m a big advocate of speaking in the moment. This takes confidence and practice, you need to know broadly what sort of thing to be saying, and so spending time with scripts can be a good preparation. Speaking in the moment, you can invoke awen and inspiration, you can respond to what’s around you, with feeling, making sense of your ritual space, your people, your experience. A script will not give you that, ever, it’s an imposition on the moment devised in advance based on assumptions about what you will get.

Part of this is about permission to mess up. You may forget the words. You may not spontaneously spout poetry. You may pause. But, you’ll have your head up, and you’ll be present. Whether working from memory or inspiration you will inherently be honouring the Druid tradition. You’ll be more real. We all muff up, that’s fine, it’s part of the learning process. You can’t open to the awen when you’re clinging to a bit of paper for protection, it doesn’t work that way. Learn the words, or don’t, but either way, dare to trust yourself. Dare to speak your Druidry in the moment, like you mean it. The difference is huge.