Tag Archives: reverence

Druids in the Cathedral

I’ve blogged a few times now about my relationship with Gloucester cathedral – while there’s no Christianity in my religious mix, it remains a powerful place for me. This is a building made with love and determination and remade and developed over many centuries by my ancestors of place, and probably a fair few blood ancestors as well. I go there to honour them. The stone has come from the hills – it is a sort of forest/cave made of stone and as such is works well as a dry place in which to commune with the wider landscape and its history. I also love the way sound is transformed by the space so that mundane human conversations sound a bit like a choir.

I haven’t been outside of Stroud since the start of the year. The small train journey to Gloucester was a big consideration. The county isn’t doing as badly with the virus as some places, but it remains an issue. I don’t want to spread it and I certainly don’t want to catch it. Balancing virus issues against emotional and mental health needs remains tricky. It was, however, really good to have some quiet, contemplative time in the cathedral.

I have a favourite chapel, and I’ve frequented it since my late teens. I first started going to the Cathedral when I was studying in Cheltenham, and sometimes my journey back from there gave me time for a visit. I’ve been sitting in contemplation, and lighting candles in the cathedral on and off throughout my adult life.

Yesterday, my adult son and I sat together in the blue chapel. Some of it was quiet contemplation, some of it was talking quietly about the stained glass and what it means. There were very few people in the cathedral, and I took the decision to do something I have always wanted to. I hummed, quietly. After a while, my son joined in and then we got a bit more deliberate about it. We’re both Pagan, but have had plenty of exposure to Christian music along the way. We picked Christian tunes that we like – slower and stranger tunes – the older ones that seem to resonate more in that space. We pondered whether the space had been made to fit the music or the music had been written for cathedral acoustics.

It was a very powerful thing for me – our two voices humming in harmony, filling the small chapel and getting glorious acoustic resonance from the building itself. No one bothered us or told us to stop. We were singing in a chapel where the modern stained glass is two thirds devoted to representing the natural world. It felt like a very Druid thing to do.

It also struck me that visitors to the cathedral were making all kinds of irreverent noise. We were the only ones doing something audibly reverent, and still I was anxious that someone might get cross with us or tell us off. But they didn’t, so maybe I will do it again.

Nature Worship

There are those who come into the hides quietly, with an air of reverence about them. They sit, wait, watch, open to a miracle that is some flash of wildlife, some unexpected vision. Then there are those who wander in, look round, see nothing and leave. Some bring children and encourage that same reverence in them, others bring children and let them shout and run about. All of the behaviour I’ve seen in hides, I have also seen in cathedrals and at stone circles.

Most people are tourists. They come to look, but don’t really know what they’re looking for. When you’re in a hide, the odds of walking in and seeing something exciting in the first thirty seconds are slim. It happened to me once with a badger, though. The tourist mentality seeks a quick thrill, a low effort moment of being entertained, and often it leaves, disappointed, complaining of how dull, how rubbish it was. I’ve seen that at more tourist attractions than I can number. The bored child and the jaded adults.

The trick is that what you get out depends entirely on what you put in. The person willing to spend hours in a hide waiting to see if the bittern raises its head, stands a fighting chance of seeing the bittern. A fleeting glance almost never gives you that. The person willing to walk slowly around a space and get to know it will learn things that were unavailable to the person who made a flying stop.

I’m fascinated by the reverence of people in hides. Of the spaces I frequent, I see more overtly inspired, reverent people in hides than I do in churches, cathedrals or at ancient pagan sites. It’s nature worship, but in a non-religious context. These are people who are inspired by the natural world, who are open to being affected by what they see and willing to give of themselves in terms of time and patience in order to make a connection, experience something. Perhaps some are pantheists. Perhaps some are pagan. I don’t know, but the innate spirituality of what happens to some people in hides, is unmistakable.

The jaded ones with the noisy children move on, and I suspect do not even notice what they’ve missed. On a good day, I may manage to stop someone, point something out, share a little of the sense of wonder. Half the trouble with hides is knowing what to look for, and often the tourists need a guide, some way of entering this mysterious, magical world. Many of the nature worshippers will share their knowledge, drawing people across one by one where they can. It’s beautiful to watch.

As druids we could learn a thing or two from the hides. No challenges, no pressure, no putting down the inexperienced, just the quiet and occasional reaching out of a hand and offering of guidance that opens people to the inspiration beyond the window.