Tag Archives: priestess

Modern Druidry and Priesthood

One of the most striking ideas in 20th century Paganism was that we could and perhaps should all be our own priests and priestesses. In many ways this is a wonderful idea: No submitting to someone else’s authority, no dogma, and the equality of all being able to speak to the divine on our own terms.

There are however, downsides. Being a priest or priestess is a lot of work. I’ve sauntered towards it in the past. What I notice is how often I wish there was somewhere I could easily, regularly go and just sit in, where showing up would feel meaningful. Sometimes, finding the ideas, energy and inspiration for maintaining your spiritual practice is hard. Sometimes guidance is needed, or just not having to carry the weight of the whole thing.

Of course historically, the people we tend to think of as Celts were not Druids – Druids were a group within that culture, performing specific roles. A Druid community made up entirely of people doing the Druid priest thing is going to have rather a lot of healers and diviners and all the rest of it, but perhaps not enough people focused on other things. It’s not easy being a Druid if you don’t have someone to be a Druid for. Historically, being a priest meant mediating between the divine and the people, it’s what defines that role. So, if we are all our own priests and priestess, what does that job even involve?

It’s not a question I find easy to answer. The thing about ministering is that we often need it doing for us – to be taught. To be guided through times of crisis. To be inspired and uplifted. To be healed when you need it, to be held and comforted by your path – these are really hard things to do for yourself.

Perhaps the answer is to aspire to be a part time Druid. Right now we need to re-skill and decarbonise, we need growers and makers and doers in all areas of life. To serve the earth or to serve your people or any deity associated with the natural world, I think you have to be considering climate chaos and the need to reduce consumption. We need the equality of having the right to stand as our own priests and priestesses and the right to be our own spiritual authority. That protects us all from dogma, and power gaming and gurus and all the problems that brings. But at the same time, we will all have days when we need ministering to, when we need someone else to be our Druid for a bit.

By not aspiring to be full time, and not aspiring to hold positions of authority, we might be able to have something egalitarian that is also supportive and that shares out all the different kinds of work that needs doing. I think that’s what I can see happening across the community – that full time Druids are rare and few people seem to aspire to that position any more.

Pagan Clergy

Last week I read this excellent post on The Ditzy Druid blog – https://ditzydruid.com/2016/04/23/why-i-believe-pagans-need-clergy/ which got me thinking about Pagan clergy.

In organised religions, clergy tends to mean hierarchy. It means people with more power and influence, perhaps in a many tiered system. I can’t say it’s something I find attractive. As a Pagan doing the clergy job, I’m very aware that I don’t have much of a formal support network. No one is paying me to support others through crisis or to offer guidance. There isn’t someone I can definitely go to for support myself, or advice or anything like that. I have no doubt it’s easier to do the work when you get paid for it and you’ve got backup.

In practice if I’m struggling, I’m likely to look around and see who, of the wise people I know, might have some ideas, or some spare energy. I am a celebrant, and an advice giver, but there are times when I need the benefit of someone else’s insight and experience. Sometimes I need a perspective from someone not as emotionally caught up in things. If I need a rite of passage, I need someone else to do that for me. If I need witnessing in something, I need someone else to do it. I think this is true for all Pagans.

One of the oft touted ideas in Paganism is that we are all our own priests and priestesses. We can all talk directly to what we hold sacred. However, in being priests and priestesses, perhaps we need to think about that role not in purely personal terms, but in community terms. In every tarot reading, every assist with a troubling dream, in ritual, in exchanging ideas and in comforting each other, we act as each other’s spiritual guides and counsellors.

Priestwork need not mean authority or hierarchy. It could be understood in terms of shared responsibility. We all need people to advise, support and challenge us once in a while. We can do that without sacrificing autonomy, by having it happen in a more fluid way.

Cat Treadwell interview

I first met Cat Treadwell through The Druid Network, when she stepped up to run the reviews section. Being one of the people she sends review books to, I’ve had a fair amount of contact with her over quite a few years now. In that time, I’ve watched Cat journey from being someone who just wanted to help out, to being the most actively involved of Druids, her work taking her in all kinds of exciting directions. She’s fast becoming one of the leading lights in UK druidry, and is undoubtedly one to watch!

Nimue: What first brought you to druidry?

Cat: As with most modern pagans, I think there’s always been something inside, whether it be an affinity for the wild lands, the seasons or just the magic in/of story. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and can remember making up my own characters and adventures from a very young age. I’d also be the strange little girl playing in the hedgerows during breaktime at school, getting to know the trees and birds! So I think it’s always been there in that regard.

Official ‘Druidry’ came about when I discovered ‘Spirits of the Sacred Grove’ while working through the huge amount of pagan books out there. Bobcat’s words struck a chord with me (as they have with many others), I sought out the BDO Yahoo group, found out that the webmaster was planning a local Grove… and here I am!

Nimue: What prompted you to take a more active role in the druid community? Was that a gradual thing, or did you make a conscious decision?

Cat: I was prompted in large part by a good friend asking me and my partner to officiate at his handfasting ceremony. I’d never overseen public ritual before, let alone an event of such importance. I still cringe when I remember the rehearsal beforehand in my back garden – it was truly awful, and I learned quickly how NOT to approach such things! But a wise man on The Druid Network forum advised me to be brave and find my ‘druid bollocks’ – and so I did! Strength in laughter, after all… *grin*

Since then, it feels that as I’ve grown, so have the challenges I’m faced with. From my first funeral rite, to a Beltane handfasting at Stonehenge, to my forthcoming book, and the latest request: to travel overseas for workshops and talks. Not to mention essentially working as a ‘professional Druid’ in order to pay the bills (due to redundancy last year). Life is busy!

Nimue: What do you do when you need inspiration

Cat: As I came to the end of my ‘training’ on Anglesey, I was going to make my promises and state my intention to the wider Universe as to what I would be doing with this. That really was a life-changing (and affirming) step, in many ways. Why had I undertaken it all? What for? How could it be best used?

Looking back, everything seemed to evolve in stages. I spent time as a beginner for a good few years, solitary and studying whatever came along and appealed to me. Eventually I joined a Grove (as part of the British Druid Order, now The Druid Network) and opened up to more ‘formal’ teaching/learning. Now came the time to step up – it wasn’t just about expanding my own knowledge, it was putting it to good use.

Nimue: How easy did you find the writing process when you stepped up to creating your first book?

Cat: My favourite image of ‘inspiration’ is one I saw years ago on a documentary. The wonderful Terry Jones sits at his desk, preparing to write. He chews his pen. He stares out the window. He fiddles with his tea mug. THAT is what searching for inspiration is like, quite often!

I tend to be mostly inspired when outside, whether walking the dog or just wandering (or even staring out of the window!). The simplest of natural events can be a reminder of something important, reconnecting you to that crucial spark that allows the creativity to flow. Ultimately, it can’t be forced… but it can be encouraged. Often by just putting yourself in the right frame of mind, with the right tools, and getting on with it!

Nimue: So, go on then, tell us about the book!

Cat: I actually felt as if I was cheating for a good while, because a lot of it had been done already on my blog! But then I realized the difference between writing ‘casually’ for an internet audience, and writing ‘professionally’ for a readership, who are physically expending energy (money) and effort to read my words. More responsibility, but determination to really speak my truth and be aware of what I was sending out into the world between those covers!

One thing that did help was that if I could ever honestly express my ‘life’s ambition’, it was (and still is) to be a writer. I still can’t believe it’s really happening, but I’ve always written, usually fiction. But I love the process, the joy of inspiration (when it flows!), ideas coming together… and then the utterly wonderful feeling of others talking to me about something that I have written. To know that somebody appreciated my work is the greatest gift, and I will always be thankful for it. So while yes, I do write on what interests me, what keeps me going is that others enjoy it as well. And hopefully find it inspiring in turn.

Nimue: What’s the book called, and how/when can people get their hands on it?

Cat: Well, as most folk know now, a few years ago I was yanked into giving a public talk at a Pagan Federation Conference with five minutes’ notice, and a deep-seated fear of speaking in public… but I did it. And was asked back!

So I figured that it might be a good idea to structure the next talk *grin* and started a blog, to ask the wider Web what exactly they wanted me to talk about.

The book came out of that, when last year, Moon Books were looking for new Pagan authors. As far as I know, while there are many ‘published blogs’ on the shelves (?) of Amazon, there hasn’t been one from a Pagan author yet. So I’ve taken time to turn it into a book, add a fair bit… and here it is!

While there’s more ‘Paganism 101’ books out there than I can count, one thing I found seriously lacking when I started out was EXPERIENTIAL stories. How other Pagans live, of whatever path. This has now started to change, thankfully, but that really is my goal with this book. To show how Druidry (and wider Paganism, usually) is lived for me, but also to make the reader question themselves and their own quests. What are you doing? What are you looking for? How far are you prepared for your life to change as your practice actively grows?

I don’t have a problem with those who are ‘trying out’ a path by reading all the books, trying the rituals, but not challenging themselves very much. I believe that this knowledge actually DOES tacitly move them forward, as they discover what they do (and don’t) want to be/do/live. I’m just being more up-front about it!

I love Druidry for being so honest, so challenging, such a daily adventure. Good and bad, dark and light – it’s part of our lives and the wider world. I hope this deep passion comes across in my words and my actions… but as I say in the book, feel free to question me if you don’t agree!

The book is ‘A Druid’s Tale’, and is currently available for pre-order on my website: http://druidcat.wordpress.com/a-druids-tale/

It’s due to be released on 29th June, and I’m told an Amazon page is being organised, with Kindle version available on there.

Cat is also out and about doing talks, workshops, interviews and all manner of other exciting things, so there’s all sorts of scope to encounter her both online and in person, if you haven’t