Archive for October, 2011

Druidry – Ancient & Modern

I’m currently busy formulating the upcoming Druidry Workshops that I’ll be running over the next year (see the ‘Workshops’ page on the right for specifics), with a brief taster session this coming week. And so naturally I’ve got to thinking over that original question that is the jumping off point for all others I get: ‘What IS Druidry?’

Specifically, what is this thing that I do – and can I really call it ‘Druidry?’ After all, nobody really knows what the ancient Druids got up to, do they?

I’ve heard so many answers to this. From ‘no, we know nothing really, because the Roman records are all propaganda’ to ‘we know far more than you think, because there’s been a secret, unbroken line of oral knowledge from the ancient teachers’… so Richard Dawkins-esque debunking to Da Vinci Code conspiracies. And none of it terribly helpful to either answering the original question or to everyday lived practice.

The lovely Bryn then sent me a book review this morning, for Ronald Hutton’s book, ‘Blood & Mistletoe‘. It sums up very succinctly both the problem and a suggested solution:

‘Putting everyone in their context, from classical writers onwards, what Hutton makes clear is the rather depressing fact that we don’t know a great deal. There are many tantalising possibilities, many details that might of course be true but the odds are we will never prove any of it conclusively. What Hutton also illustrates is a long history of appropriation, as all kinds of people have borrowed the ancient Druids and dressed them up in their own agenda.

There were points reading this book when I felt very depressed indeed. On the whole I would rather be honestly depressed than clinging to illusions. I came away from this book with a number of thoughts. One, that we probably have to embrace the not knowing. Two, that every ancient faith out there finds itself at odds with definitive historical records. Three, that inspiration may be more important than hard fact, and four, that what we do with this will be the measure of us, not what we can ’prove’ about what ancient druids got up to.

I think there are a number of issues modern druids need to consider, in terms of how we position ourselves in relation to the past. What of the ancient writing about the druids do we choose to accept and what do we decide to reject? Do we believe that the mediaeval ‘celtic’ writings represent a valid source for modern druids? What of the inspiration from the eighteenth century onwards do we want to keep claiming, and what, if any, is too dishonourably crafted to serve us further? I very much doubt we’re all going to settle on one definitive answer here, which is probably as well.’

To my delight, Damh the Bard has just interjected his own explanation via MP3: ‘Some people don’t understand when I say “These are the things I believe.”‘ (From ‘The Hills They Are Hollow, used without permission but with grateful thanks!).

As I’ve said before, ‘Druidry’ is a term that I (and many others) use to roughly describe a particular ethical and spiritual practice. There are, we believe, parallels with that ancient faith that we know so little about, but ultimately we don’t practise anything in the same manner as our ancestors two millennia ago – nor should we, as by now it would be largely irrelevant. While human truths about life and death still stand, our ways of living are very different.

So, in this world of deified science, political correctness and equality, isn’t it in fact amazing that people are still interested in spirituality at all? Isn’t it irrelevant? I don’t think so.

While the context has changed, the quest for answers goes on. For every solution science throws up, more questions appear – and that’s part of the wonder of life, the universe and our place in it. This, for me, is where my Druidry comes in.

We are PART of the universe. Like it or not, we are not above all other life-forms, somehow apart and superior – we’re part of the big scheme of things, the chaos of natural disasters and the order of the food chain. The realization that in this ‘modern’ world of computers, DNA and international information networks, we are still subject to anything can be extremely uncomfortable.

This spirituality I call Druidry does not provide easy explanations that I must take on blind faith. Yes, I have faith – in the Nature that I see all around me. As I do things it probably doesn’t understand, so it returns the favour!

As we move forward into the ‘advanced’ 21st Century, more and more we are waking up to knowledge of our own ignorance – hence looking back for answers that we may have forgotten. Historical validation seems to be important to the newer Pagan faiths, but rather than a form of desperation, it  can be seen as re-realizing that our ancestors were working just as hard to understand the world they lived in as we are… and their words have value if we truly listen.

Being part of Nature is not just a geographic experience, but a temporal one as well. Shamanic teaching holds that all time is relative and can be experienced as circular, rather than linear – as any child who watches ‘Dr Who’ knows, we can do our best to understand our ancestors, past and future, through imagination and visualisation. As adults, we can learn from investigation and greater understanding of humanity and our own families, and from spiritual exploration (if we know how to look).

My Druidry is being a Priest of the Land. Working with it, on it and beside it, being curious and loving in relationship. Aware that as a human being, I will make mistakes, fall and get up again, with the ground always there to meet me… hopefully knocking some sense in through experience!

Who can truly say that they understand what’s going on in life – with the world, even with our own species? It’s an endless quest, but striving for greater understanding of our interconnected relationship as a sacred responsibility in life helps to keep me grounded and moving on this path.

I’m also endlessly glad that so many others are with me.

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